Friday, August 19, 2016

Review: The Truth About Unrequited Love

By Michael Block

The first bit of dialogue Sean Peter Drohan starts his play off with discusses unrequited love. And it sets up the entirety of the story perfectly. Cyrano: a love letter to a friendship is a modern gay retelling of Edmond Rostand's Cyrano de Bergerac. But this is not the Cyrano you know. Yet there's a reason why this story is so universal. Change the character names and it stands on its own. In this version, Cyrano and Christian are roommates and best friends in NYC. Oh and they're gay. Cyrano: a love letter to a friendship may be flashy and fabulous, but in the end, it is a heartbreaking and honest portrayal on friendship and what it means to truly love a friend. Cyrano and Christian are roommates and besties. They're so close and open, they know each other inside and out. They do things that perhaps would only exist in a romantic relationship. But that's not what they are! Well, not according to one half of the party. When Christian reveals that a new love is in the picture, the bond between the friends experiences a strain neither is equipped to handle. Can Cyrano repress his love, whatever that may be, for Christian without losing him completely? And what happens if Christian's new love doesn't work out? Are these two back to normal? Drohan does a phenomenal job through his strong commentary on friendship and love in the gay world. Whether you've experienced it or not, the lines can get easily blurred and one wrong comment can destroy even the best of friends. It's something that many take for granted. The word love can mean two entirely different things to two people. And that's a source of conflict for Cyrano and Christian. When Cyrano says it, it comes from a place of admiration and affection. Perhaps a tinge of romance, but that's debatable. For Christian, it's just a word that can get thrown around. Christian says it all willy nilly when it comes to Cyrano. Yet when he has to muster up the strength to say it to Rock, it suddenly finds new meaning. Cyrano: a love letter to a friendship is not perfect but it is perfectly effective. The original story finds Cyrano's nose being the reason for lack of connection. In Drohan's version, it's the perception of beauty. Well, how others perceive beauty. Cyrano is not the conventional image of "sexy gay." And in a way, no matter how perfect they are for one another, Christian's lack of physical attraction for Cyrano is the wall preventing them from getting together. It's his nose. This is sadly a common theme in gay culture and Drohan expertly captures it. The play ran a normal full length time due to the additions director-choreographer Eamon Foley provided. Even though the characters are solidly fleshed out, Drohan can easily provide more to this story. Offer more insight to how in-tune this pair is and why deep down they might be soul mates. Anything to make that final moment hit even harder. Though right now it causes some tears to stream.
Director Foley brought the pulse to Drohan's play. Foley's direction was filled with humor, humility, and a whole lot of heart. As stereotypical as the situation may have been, Foley ensured that these characters were authentic and identifiable. But then there was the stuff that was not the text. Did the choreography add anything? Not necessarily but it was damn good! The projection design from Jason Lee Courson was fantastic. From the cityscapes to the Grindr conversations, Courson exceeded expectations. The set though. Well that is a different story. As functional as the Legos were to create various locations and scenic pieces, they just didn't live in this world. Is it wrong to say it wanted to be something gayer and more fabulous?
As rare as it happens, the actor-scribe combination worked. As Cyrano, Sean Peter Drohan captured the character. Though his vocals may have been a decibel to high, the emotional journey he went on was touching. He crafted an identifiable character. As his bestie, Adam Roberts was the epitome of beauty. He made Christian a bit dumb, but it was sweetly endearing. The character of Rock is so vile it helps you cheer on the hope of Cyrano and Christian. Judah Frank had a domineering presence that made his character the antagonist if the story.
Cyrano: a love letter to a friendship was difficult to watch. Why? Because Sean Peter Drohan captured the essence of love and friendship in a swift hour long play. He left you wanting more. Pray that he delivers. As a reimagining or not, the story is beautiful. When you love someone as much as Cyrano and Christian do, you'll take whatever is offered in order to keep the other in your life. Even if it means a little bit of heartbreak and a lot a bit of tears.