By Deirdre Parker Smith
SALISBURY — There’s no doubt who is the star of Piedmont Players’ production of “Cyrano de Bergerac.”
It’s the guy with the nose, played beautifully by Michael Weaver, who has this silken voice and a smooth confidence that will endear him to audiences. On opening night, they awarded his efforts with a standing ovation.
Weaver had to learn a great deal of dialogue, and seems perfectly comfortable with it all. He becomes Cyrano completely.
This perfectly mirrors the central plot of the story — Cyrano being the true woo-er of fair Roxane, through the handsome Christian, played here by Cody Gasque with the right amount of uncertainty and later, misery.
The action takes place in the France, in the middle of the 17th century, the era of Cardinal Richelieu and the Three Musketeers.
Cyrano, with a nose that “arrives a quarter hour” before he does, is deeply in love with his cousin, Roxane, played with feeling by Emily Bartsch. Cyrano knows he is too ugly to win her. They are great friends, and when she tell him she’s in love with the lovely-to-look-at Christian, Cyrano will do anything to make her happy.
He writes letters, supposedly from Christian, and makes love to her with words which fill her with longing and love.
Alas, the evil Comte de Guiche, played with a sneer by Jonathan Elliott Coarsey, also loves Roxane, and plots against Christian, who has secretly married her, and Cyrano, who has publicly embarrassed de Guiche. Off to the front lines of the war they go.
There, Cyrano writes to Roxane every day, as Christian, until she comes to the battlefield with food for her husband, and he decides he must tell her the truth.
But tragedy strikes, and no one is left unscathed.
By the time the truth is obvious, through an emotional scene 15 years later, it’s too late. Another tragedy ends the play. There is a bittersweet victory to balance the sadness.
“Cyrano de Bergerac” has a huge cast including the Cadets of Gascoyne, the military unit Christan and Cyrano are in, a convent of nuns, boys, lackies, an orange girl, a porter and a more.
Standouts among them are Mary Ann McCubbin, Coarsey’s mother, who is Roxanes’s companion; Ragueneau, a pastry chef turned poet and guard for Roxane; and Jacob Breyton as Le Bret, Cyrano’s friend.
The set is also a star, though it is dimly lit throughout. A massive turntable, which holds other set pieces on wheels, moves to change the scene from theater to Roxane’s balcony to the battlefield.
Costumer Jim Beaudoin created the myriad costumes, mostly in blacks and grays, with the characteristic white plumes on the cadets.
Director and designer Reid Leonard has managed to make this classic approachable and full of meaning.
At 21/2 hours, this is not a show for children. They will have no idea what is going on. The first act began with a creak, but the players warmed into their roles, making them all sympathetic by the end.
In these days of “The Bachelor” and other “reality” shows, it’s heartwarming to see how wonderful true love can be.
Underwritten by Pharr Law, PLLC, “Cyrano de Bergerac” continues tonight and Saturday at the Meroney Theatre at 7:30 p.m., as well as Feb. 15-18. A 2:30 p.m. matinee is offered this Sunday. For tickets, call 704-633-5471.
By Deirdre Parker Smith