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Chuck Morey gave me my first Equity contract: playing Horatio to Richard Bekin’s Hamlet in 1987. I stayed with Pioneer Theatre Company (PTC) for several shows that season, and came back many times in the succeeding years. By that time, I had developed a lovely relationship not only with Chuck (who is a marvelous playwright and adapter as well as a director), but with the Salt Lake audience. My favorite role at PTC was Cyrano DeBergerac. Chuck directed a production in which everything seemed to go right. He said it is was his favorite play and it showed. We used the Hooker translation, but worked with the original French to adapt it a bit. The Hooker makes Cyrano a bit too polite. In the original French he is rougher, angrier, ruder. We returned that quality to the text. Paradoxically, it served to make him even more attractive and sympathetic, as well as more complex.
Cyrano is simply the best role ever written for an actor. Some characters are hard to play because they fail at everything they try to do; Macbeth is a good example. He fails at controlling his wife’s ambition, fails at his attempt to hide his murders, fails in his effort to control the weird sisters, and ultimately fails in his effort to hold on to his kingdom. Most of all, he fails to control his imagination, which runs ahead of him like a wild horse. The actor goes home each night feeling that he has failed abominably, even if he has played the role to perfection.
Cyrano is just the opposite: while seeming to fail he succeeds at everything! He succeeds in the duel with Valvert, defeats a hundred men at the Port DeNesle, and when he believes that Roxanne can never love him, succeeds in developing a passionate romantic relationship with her anyway! Finally, in spite of death, he succeeds in his ultimate task: holding true to his ideals in a darkening world. In spite of all obstacles, he maintains his panache.