I had the pleasure to see Little Red Cyrano at Strawdog Theatre on its opening weekend. The play included a cast of trained clowns and Deaf actors. It was unlike any other play I had seen before. American Sign Language was integrated into the play, along with the actors’ spoken words. There are screens with captions for those who do not know ASL and in the background, the spoken narration of what what being signed . In the Director’s note, Aaron Sawyer wrote that he “vowed to invert the dynamics….the play would operate inside a universal, visual language.” It all flowed within the play which had a great ensemble.
The play combined the story of Little Red Riding Hood and Cyrano de Bergerac. Both stories presented similar elements: Deception being the most prevalent to me. While I am familiar with the story of Little Red Riding Hood, I was not with Cyrano and there were some moments during the show that I was unsure of what and why something was happening. However, the talented cast including Benjamin Ponce (Cyrano), Dari Simone (Little Red), Dave Honigman (Christian), Christopher Paul Mueller (Woodsman/Lise), Michael J. Stark (Grandmother/Rageneau) and Chorus keeps the audience engaged with action, humor and heart. It felt that we came to intermission sooner than later even though that was not the case. I was invested in following the story and fate of all the characters.
Strawdog Theatre is a small, intimate space. Walking into the performance area, I noticed that actors were interacting with the audience before the show. This remained the case during the whole show. I feel this is why the described “clown-based performance” worked well in the play. Having read that beforehand, it made me wonder what exactly that meant. I soon saw it in the action and humorous scenes. The actors made use not only of the audience but the entire play area. It was not just being acted center stage. Being close to the actors, and having us; the audience participate at times during the show made it also feel unique and kept me captivated.
I recommend this performance but I would refresh and brush up on both tales beforehand in order to follow the twist that is Little Red Cyrano. As I mentioned before, deception was a common theme, and while Little Red Riding Hood is the story with the wolf in it, but that does not mean a wolf is literal in every tale. In Cyrano de Bergerac, the man can be seen acting like a wolf. In this story, a man also purses and engages in a ploy to lure a girl. For also in the Director’s note, “Modern day wolves are appearing with regularity. A revolution is occurring and those of us who have fed those wolves will not be granted absolution.”
Little Red Cyrano by Aaron Sawyer runs December 1, 2017 – January 7, 2018 at Strawdog Theatre 1802 W. Berenice Ave, Chicago, Il 60613. Thursdays – Saturdays at 8pm, and Sundays at 4pm and 8pm.