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Surprisingly few people outside Wisconsin know of APT’s existence, yet it is America’s finest classical theater festival, unrivaled for the unfailing excellence of its productions. Nowhere else—not even in New York or Chicago—will you see such plays done more stylishly or excitingly.
This last comparison will ring especially true for anyone in a position to compare APT’s magnificent new production of “A View from the Bridge” with Ivo van Hove’s self-indulgent 2015 Broadway staging. Unlike that flatulent exercise in Eurotrashy gimmickry, Tim Ocel’s small-scale production of Arthur Miller’s 1956 drama of incestuous love on the waterfront, mounted in the Touchstone Theatre, APT’s 200-seat indoor house, is a masterpiece of sustained tension. Performed by a cast of the highest possible quality led by Jim DeVita, a 23-year company veteran, it is, together with Mike Nichols’ 2012 Broadway version of “Death of a Salesman,” one of the two best Miller revivals I’ve ever seen.
Every aspect of Mr. Ocel’s production is distinguished, not least Takeshi Kata’s set, a near-abstract assemblage of wooden warehouse pallets that is appropriately stark and austere. But it is Mr. DeVita who catapults it into the stratosphere. Unless you frequent Spring Green, you probably aren’t aware that he is one of America’s leading classical actors. Until now, though, I’d never seen him in a purely naturalistic role, and I confess to being just a bit surprised to discover that he can change hats with complete ease….
Mr. DeVita is also a gifted writer and director, and APT is featuring him in both of those capacities this season in his own adaptation of Edmond Rostand’s “Cyrano de Bergerac,” a play too often staged with a winking levity that undermines its wholehearted romanticism. Far from being a postmodern ironist, Rostand’s long-nosed protagonist (James Ridge) is the truest of believers in old-fashioned heroism, and there is nothing remotely funny about his inability to confess his love to the beauteous Roxane (Laura Rook). Yes, “Cyrano” is corny, but if you play it that way, it doesn’t work: It must be done sincerely or not at all. That’s why neither of the past two Broadway revivals, with Kevin Kline in 2007 and Douglas Hodge in 2012, quite came off. Both productions lacked the underlying gravity without which Cyrano’s flights of rhetoric can end up sounding silly.
Mr. DeVita and Mr. Ridge, by contrast, give us a “Cyrano” of near-Shakespearean weight, never exaggerated and never frivolous….
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Read the whole thing here.
Jim DeVita talks about Cyrano de Bergerac, with James Ridge appearing in clips from the production: