by Melissa Griegel . . .
The Center at West Park at the historic West Park Presbyterian Church on 165 West 86th Street was the scene for a multi-cultural and multi-lingual live theatrical event on Friday, June 11th, and Saturday, June 12. For VIP ticket holders, the evening began on the second floor Russian Arts Theater and Studio’s Pushkin Hall at 6 pm with a wine and cheese reception and live performances, followed by the 90-minute show at 7:30 pm.
The musicians, poets, and opera singers at the gala reception performed in front of an almost entirely Russian audience. Performers included famed Russian actress Elena Ouspenskaia who read a poem in Russian, and Russian opera singers, Soprano Elizaveta Kozlova, and Baritone Niko Znaharchuk who regaled the audience in Italian, including a piece from Mozart’s Figaro.
The main event was held in the main chapel on stage, surrounded by dramatic stained glass. “My Cyrano” was presented by New Wave Arts in association with Salon Z and featured excerpts from Tanya Lebedinskaya’s poem “My Cyrano” based on Edmond Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac.
This modern improvisational adaption was performed in Russian with English supertitles and featured a unique mix of heavy rock and Baroque music played by the Russian hard rock group The Blackfires and Grammy-winning Baroque musician Jordi Savall.
The lead singer of the Blackfires, Andrey “Cheggi” Chegodaev, took on the role of Cyrano opposite Maria Wonder as Roxanne. The cast was rounded out by Leo Grine, Carlo Velardi, Gala Orlovskaya, Zeyna Gagne, Badimir, Lev Grzhonko, Vadim Kroll, Valentina Kvasova, Nina Ros, and Anna Zinenenko.
The vividly stylistic adaption was directed and choreographed by Mariya Kotlova and exquisitely costumed by Violetta Livshen and Marina Sash. The stark stage featured a large circus double cyr wheel that doubled as Roxanne’s balcony and the tavern’s table. The play began and ended with and actor portraying bard Edmond Rostand discussing his play.
The classic love story of a man hopelessly in love with someone he thinks he doesn’t deserve because of his large nose, took on a louder and more urgent approach when spoken in Russian and directed in this more militant version of Cyrano. Some of the most enjoyable moments were the more lighthearted scenes that didn’t involve any talking at all. The duel scene between Cyrano and Valvert was a battle of handkerchiefs and dance moves with a variety of nonsense words and sounds directed at each other. The majority of the cast took part in a noisy pub card game with banging, clanking, and sounds reminiscent of a Stomp performance.
Live theater is back! The pre-show performances combined with a an innovative re-imagining of Cyrano de Bergerac made for a lovely evening.
Photos by Melissa Griegel Photography and Pavel Antonov