Sunday, April 24, 2016

Review: "Cyrano" at TheatreWorks (Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts)

Today, we saw a TheatreWorks production of Cyrano. Cyrano is based on a play by Edmon Rostand and adapter by Michael Holligner and Aaron Posner.

The role of Cyrano was played by J. Anthony Crane, Roxane by Sharon Rietkerk, and Christian by Chad Deverman. It takes place at two times: Paris and Arras in 1640 and then Paris in 1655.

I really enjoyed the play and the verbal counter-play between Cyrano and everyone else. It was a delight to see the play.

The plot, as described very accurately by Wikipedia is as follows:
Hercule Savinien Cyrano de Bergerac, a cadet (nobleman serving as a soldier) in the French Army, is a brash, strong-willed man of many talents. In addition to being a remarkable duelist, he is a gifted, joyful poet and is also shown to be a musician. However, he has an extremely large nose, which is the reason for his own self-doubt. This doubt prevents him from expressing his love for his distant cousin, the beautiful and intellectual heiress Roxane, as he believes that his ugliness denies him the "dream of being loved by even an ugly woman."

Act I – A Performance at the Hôtel Burgundy

The play opens in Paris, 1640, in the theatre of the Hôtel Burgundy. Members of the audience slowly arrive, representing a cross-section of Parisian society from pickpockets to nobility. Christian de Neuvillette, a handsome new cadet, arrives with Lignière, a drunkard who he hopes will identify the young woman with whom he has fallen in love. Lignière recognizes her as Roxane, and tells Christian about her and the Count De Guiche’s scheme to marry her off to the compliant Viscount Valvert. Meanwhile, Ragueneau and Le Bret are expecting Cyrano de Bergerac, who has banished the actor Montfleury from the stage for a month. After Lignière leaves, Christian intercepts a pickpocket and, in return for his freedom, the pickpocket tells Christian of a plot against Lignière. Christian departs to try to warn him.
The play “Clorise” begins with Montfleury’s entrance, and Cyrano disrupts the play, forces him off stage, and compensates the manager for the loss of admission fees. The crowd is going to disperse when Cyrano lashes out at a pesky busybody, then is confronted by Valvert and duels with him while composing a ballade, wounding (and possibly killing) him as he ends the refrain (as promised: he ends each refrain with "When I end the refrain, 'Thrust Home'.") When the crowd has cleared the theater, Cyrano and Le Bret remain behind, and Cyrano confesses his love for Roxane. Roxane’s duenna then arrives, and asks where Roxane may meet Cyrano privately. Lignière is then brought to Cyrano, having learned that one hundred hired thugs are waiting to ambush him on his way home. Cyrano, now emboldened, vows to take on the entire mob single-handed, and he leads a procession of officers, actors and musicians to the Porte de Nesle.

Act II – The Poets’ Cookshop

The next morning, at Ragueneau’s bake shop, Ragueneau supervises various apprentice cooks in their preparations. Cyrano arrives, anxious about his meeting with Roxane. He is followed by a musketeer, a paramour of Ragueneau’s domineering wife Lise, then the regular gathering of impoverished poets who take advantage of Ragueneau’s hospitality. Cyrano composes a letter to Roxane expressing his deep and unconditional love for her, warns Lise about her indiscretion with the musketeer, and when Roxane arrives he signals Ragueneau to leave them alone.
Roxane and Cyrano talk privately as she bandages his hand (injured from the fracas at the Port de Nesle); she thanks him for defeating Valvert at the theater, and talks about a man with whom she has fallen in love. Cyrano thinks that she is talking about him at first, and is ecstatic, but Roxane describes her beloved as "handsome," and tells him that she is in love with Christian. Roxane fears for Christian’s safety in the predominantly Gascon company of Cadets, so she asks Cyrano to befriend and protect him. This he agrees to do.
After she leaves, Cyrano’s captain arrives with the cadets to congratulate him on his victory from the night before. They are followed by a huge crowd, including De Guiche and his entourage, but Cyrano soon drives them away. Le Bret takes him aside and chastises him for his behavior, but Cyrano responds haughtily. The Cadets press him to tell the story of the fight, teasing the newcomer Christian. When Cyrano recounts the tale, Christian displays his own form of courage by interjecting several times with references to Cyrano’s nose. Cyrano is angry, but remembering his promise to Roxanne, he holds in his temper.
Eventually Cyrano explodes, the shop is evacuated, and Cyrano reveals his identity as Roxane's cousin. Christian confesses his love for Roxane but his inability to woo because of his lack of intellect and wit. When Cyrano tells Christian that Roxane expects a letter from him, Christian is despondent, having no eloquence in such matters. Cyrano then offers his services, including his own unsigned letter to Roxane. The Cadets and others return to find the two men embracing, and are flabbergasted. The musketeer from before, thinking it was safe to do so, teases Cyrano about his nose and receives a slap in the face while the Cadets rejoice.

Act III – Roxane's Kiss

Outside Roxane's house Ragueneau is conversing with Roxane's duenna. When Cyrano arrives, Roxane comes down and they talk about Christian: Roxane says that Christian’s letters have been breathtaking—he is more intellectual than even Cyrano, she declares. She also says that she loves Christian.
When De Guiche arrives, Cyrano hides inside Roxane's house. De Guiche tells Roxane that he has come to say farewell. He has been made a colonel of an army regiment that is leaving that night to fight in the war with Spain. He mentions that the regiment includes Cyrano’s guards, and he grimly predicts that he and Cyrano will have a reckoning. Afraid for Christian’s safety if he should go to the front, Roxane quickly suggests that the best way for De Guiche to seek revenge on Cyrano would be for him to leave Cyrano and his cadets behind while the rest of the regiment goes on to military glory. After much flirtation from Roxane, De Guiche believes he should stay close by, concealed in a local monastery. When Roxane implies that she would feel more for De Guiche if he went to war, he agrees to march on steadfastly, leaving Cyrano and his cadets behind. He leaves, and Roxane makes the duenna promise she will not tell Cyrano that Roxane has robbed him of a chance to go to war.
Roxane expects Christian to come visit her, and she tells the duenna to make him wait if he does. Cyrano presses Roxane to disclose that instead of questioning Christian on any particular subject, she plans to make Christian improvise about love. Although he tells Christian the details of her plot, when Roxane and her duenna leave, he calls for Christian who has been waiting nearby. Cyrano tries to prepare Christian for his meeting with Roxane, urging him to remember lines Cyrano has written. Christian however refuses saying he wants to speak to Roxane in his own words. Cyrano bows to this saying, “Speak for yourself, sir.”
During their meeting Christian makes a fool of himself trying to speak seductively to Roxane. Roxane storms into her house, confused and angry. Thinking quickly, Cyrano makes Christian stand in front of Roxane’s balcony and speak to her while Cyrano stands under the balcony whispering to Christian what to say. Eventually, Cyrano shoves Christian aside and, under cover of darkness, pretends to be Christian, wooing Roxane himself. In the process, he wins a kiss for Christian.
Roxane and Christian are secretly married by a Capuchin while Cyrano waits outside to prevent De Guiche from disrupting the impromptu wedding. Their happiness is short-lived: De Guiche, angry to have lost Roxane, declares that he is sending the Cadets of Gascony to the front lines of the war with Spain. De Guiche triumphantly tells Cyrano that the wedding night will have to wait. Under his breath, Cyrano remarks that the news fails to upset him.
Roxane, afraid for Christian, urges Cyrano to promise to keep him safe, to keep him out of dangerous situations, to keep him dry and warm, and to keep him faithful. Cyrano says that he will do what he can but that he cannot promise anything. Roxane begs Cyrano to promise to make Christian write to her every day. Brightening, Cyrano announces confidently that he can promise that.

Act IV – The Gascon Cadets

The siege of Arras. The Gascon Cadets are among many French forces now cut off by the Spanish, and they are starving. Cyrano, meanwhile, has been writing in Christian’s name twice a day, smuggling letters across the enemy lines. De Guiche, whom the Cadets despise, arrives and chastises them; Cyrano responds with his usual bravura, and De Guiche then signals a spy to tell the Spanish to attack on the Cadets, informing them that they must hold the line while relief comes in. Then a coach arrives, and Roxane emerges from it. She tells how she was able to flirt her way through the Spanish lines. Cyrano tells Christian about the letters, and provides him a farewell letter to give to Roxane if he dies. After De Guiche departs, Roxane provides plenty of food and drink with the assistance of the coach’s driver, Ragueneau. She also tells Christian that, because of the letters, she has grown to love him for his soul alone, and would still love him even if he were ugly.
Christian tells this to Cyrano, and then persuades Cyrano to tell Roxane the truth about the letters, saying he has to be loved for "the fool that he is" to be truly loved at all. Cyrano disbelieves what Christian claims Roxane has said, until she tells him so as well. But, before Cyrano can tell her the truth, Christian is brought back to the camp, having been fatally shot. Cyrano realizes that, in order to preserve Roxane's image of an eloquent Christian, he cannot tell her the truth. The battle ensues, a distraught Roxane collapses and is carried off by De Guiche and Ragueneau, and Cyrano rallies the Cadets to hold back the Spanish until relief arrives.

Act V – Cyrano’s Gazette

Fifteen years later, at a convent outside Paris. Roxane now resides here, eternally mourning her beloved Christian. She is visited by De Guiche, Le Bret and Ragueneau, and she expects Cyrano to come by as he always has with news of the outside world. On this day, however, he has been mortally wounded by someone who dropped a huge log on his head from a tall building. Upon arriving to deliver his "gazette" to Roxane, knowing it will be his last, he asks Roxane if he can read "Christian's" farewell letter. She gives it to him, and he reads it aloud as it grows dark. Listening to his voice, she realizes that it is Cyrano who was the author of all the letters, but Cyrano denies this to his death. Ragueneau and Le Bret return, telling Roxane of Cyrano’s injury. While Cyrano grows delirious, his friends weep and Roxane tells him that she loves him. He combats various foes, half imaginary and half symbolic, conceding that he has lost all but one important thing – his panache – as he dies in Le Bret and Ragueneau's arms.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

One Night in Stockholm

Our Norwegian Airlines flight D85052 from Malaga, Spain to Stockholm, Sweden departed on time from Malaga's airport at 2:30pm.

We landed in Stockholm, Sweden, right on time at 6:45pm. We collected our luggage, which took 15-20 minutes, and decided to figure out what to do. We were all feeling rested from our Spain vacation and had energy to explore a new city.

Inna thought about exploring Stockholm's Gamla Stan and she talked to the Information counter about possibilities of travelling to Stockholm's downtown. She learned that there was an Arlanda Express train running every 15 minutes. The train takes about 20 minutes to get from Arlanda airport to the Central train station in downtown Stockholm. We decided to purchase round trip tickets. The cost was 600 kroner for two people (the conversion was about 9 kroner / 1 dollar). There was an ATM machine in the airport and I was able to withdraw the local Swedish kroner currency to pay for the shuttle.

Our next goal was to drop off our luggage at our Best Western Arlanda hotel and head back to the airport. We tried to find a taxi, but none of them wanted to take us to our hotel - as it was only a 10 minute ride and they wanted to make more money. We decided to use our Best Western hotel's shuttle, which runs every 30 minutes. Luckily, we caught the shuttle at 7:40pm and arrived at our Best Western Arlanda hotel at 7:50pm. We were able to quickly register, drop off Alex in our room, and get back on the shuttle, before it left for the airport.

We arrived back at the Arlanda airport at 8:10pm and got on the next Arlanda Express train for Stockholm. At about 8:30pm, we arrived into downtown Stockholm. Since we were hungry, we were hoping to find a local Swedish restaurant to dine in. Our friends were also staying in Stockholm and they suggested that we meet up for dinner at Stockholm Fisk, which was only 5 minutes away from the Central Train station.

We walked to Stockholm Fisk at Vasagatan 1 and ordered our dinner, while waiting for our friends.

For soup, Inna and I decided to share some "Fish & Shellfish Chowder with rouille & garlic bread". For my entree, I ordered the "Swedish Meatballs with cream sauce, potato puree, lingonberries & pickled cucumber".

We really liked Swedish bread, especially the dark rye and the crackers.

The "Fish & Shellfish chowder" was delicious, especially with bread.

My meatballs were great, especially with lingonberries (my favorite)!

After dinner, we decided to explore Gamla Stan a bit more, before returning to our Best Western Arlanda. In retrospect, we probably should have stayed in downtown Stockholm, as the train from Arlanda airport to downtown is so fast and convenient.

It was around 10:00pm and Gamla Stan was completely dead! Unlike Seville, where partying and socializing continues well into the night, Stockholm night life seems to vanish by late evening. We were a bit surprised - given that Stockholm is such a large city (and a capital).

We wondered around, hoping to find a nice coffee shop, but only bars were open (and we were not in the mood to drink wine or beer).

After some more wondering, we returned back to the train station and took the train (and then the shuttle) to our Best Western Hotel.

We had a good night's sleep and got up to enjoy a delicious breakfast.

After breakfast, we headed back to the airport for our flight to Oakland and our long trip back home.

We had a nice time in Stockholm and hope to be back some day.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Exploring Ronda

Saturday, April 10, 2016

Our drive from Zahara to Ronda,Spain was short and uneventful, covering the beautiful Spanish countryside. We arrived into Parador de Ronda Hotel in our little Opel Meriva rental car at just around 1:00pm.

After checking in and dropping off our bags, we decided to stroll through Ronda, on our way to find a decent place to have lunch.

We strolled through some narrow cobblestone streets on the way to Bodega San Francisco.

We ended up eating our lunch at Bodega San Francisco - a restaurant that was frequented by locals.

We enjoyed our inexpensive lunch there with all of the other local Spaniards.

The "Fried Mushrooms" were good and the "Russian Salad" was fantastic. We really enjoyed our lunch at Bodega.

After lunch, wondered around Ronda, exploring the ancient city walls and ruins.

We really enjoyed walking around and marveling at the old houses, shops, and ruins.

One of the strolls led us outside the main city walls, on the outskirts of Ronda where we saw sheep grazing.

There are many beautiful, old arched bridges in the city and we stopped by a few.

Ronda is quite hilly, so we ended up walking a lot of up/down stairs.

There are hundreds of beautiful overlooks on the surrounding area.

We decided to go for a long hike down to the valley below.

The view of the Puento Nuevo bridge is fantastic.

We sow a small waterfall under the bridge.

We hiked all the way to the bridge to the water storage facility.

There are very sharp, steep cliffs on either side.

Inna even managed to climb up on one of the platforms.

There were many blooming wildflowers on the trail.

There are very nice looking arches in Ronda.

After the hike, we decided to stop by at wine shop for a quick bite & drink at the El Morabito bar.

After drinking some hot tea, we strolled some more, watching for the beautiful sunset.

Nearby was the Plaza del Toros - the bullfighting ring - where bull fighting originated in Spain.

As evening started to settle, we decided to look for a place for dinner. All of the places we looked at were either closed or packed.

We finally found a Restaurante Nueva 13 which was open and filled with locals. The food was ok - not the best we've had but it was fairly reasonably priced.

Sunday, April 11, 2016

In the morning, I woke up earlier in order to capture pre-sunrise photos. All of Ronda was asleep with no one out.

After taking lots of photos, it was time for our first and last breakfast at Parador de Ronda hotel.

We had a delicious breakfast with fresh croissants, juices, and coffee. It was time to say good bye to Rondo and head to the Malaga airport (a few hours away).

We had an exhilarating time in Rondo and really enjoyed Spain overall.