From 'Lear' To 'Cyrano,' Just Following His Nose
By Jane Horwitz
Special to The Washington Post
Tuesday, June 29, 2004; Page C05
Geraint Wyn Davies, sans nose, sans wig, sans sword, still cuts a fine figure. The Welsh-born actor plays the title role in "Cyrano" at the Shakespeare Theatre (where it runs through Aug. 1) and appears to be one of those renaissance types who can't be idle.
While playing the conniving Edmond to Christopher Plummer's Lear in New York, Wyn Davies was cajoled by the Shakespeare Theatre's Michael Kahn into replacing Stacy Keach (whose knee surgery hadn't healed fast enough) just days before the start of rehearsals in May.
It was a huge role to learn, but after a "Lear" performance, Plummer, Kevin Kline and Len Cariou gathered in Wyn Davies' dressing room and urged him to take the "Cyrano" challenge. "They all said, you're not really putting on the actor's hat if you don't do it," he recalls.
"You can be a bully, you can be a lover . . . it encompasses most of our strengths and indeed weaknesses . . . and it's funny. . . . I love the size of it," Wyn Davies says of the role and, one presumes, the nose.
Luckily, he adds, "I have the ability to ad-lib in rhyme." He says he joked to playwright-adaptor Barry Kornhauser that the program should credit "additional dialogue by Geraint Wyn Davies." It didn't hurt, either, that the 47-year-old actor spent nearly a decade in Canada's Stratford and Shaw festivals and studied fencing with a master.
In recent years, Wyn Davies, who lives in Santa Barbara, has done a lot of television and film. (The 1990s series "Forever Knight," in which he played a vampire cop, repeats on the Sci-Fi channel. He also directed many episodes.) He's married to an artist he met 21 years ago while playing the young, inarticulate Christian in another "Cyrano" and had to lobby his family to come to Washington this summer. His 16-year-old daughter has been working part time in the Shakespeare Theatre box office.
He can be blithe about the difficulty of playing Cyrano -- "Once you get the nose on, it points you in the right direction" -- but the role is hard work. Even in the notoriously over-air-conditioned Shakespeare Theatre, he wears a specially designed undershirt with ice packs in it. "I feel a bit like a salmon that's being sent down fresh to a restaurant," he says, laughing.
Kornhauser's dialogue brims with puns and jokes -- some deliberate groaners. "Barry's script is so clever," says Wyn Davies, "your job as an actor is to fill [in] the emotional journey. . . . We had to really pick and choose our moments to solidify the whole piece." The idea, he says, is "to get the fun of it, the souffle, [and] be careful not to poke it."
That's the Ticket
Ticket sales for "A Streetcar Named Desire," the first full-length play in the Kennedy Center's Tennessee Williams Explored Festival, averaged 86 percent of capacity, said center spokeswoman Tiki Davies. She expects the current show, "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," which will close July 4, to finish "at about the same place. . . . And obviously people are interested in 'The Glass Menagerie' because of Sally [Field]," who will play Amanda Wingfield. "Menagerie," which will run July 17-Aug. 8, might sell at about 95 percent, Davies said. Early in the festival, "Five by Tenn," an evening of one-acts, sold at 80 percent, according to the Shakespeare Theatre, which presented them at the Kennedy Center. Two seasons ago, sales for the Sondheim Celebration averaged 88 percent, Davies said.
"Beehive: The 60's Musical Sensation" opened June 17 at the Kennedy Center's Terrace Theater with such little fanfare that many people nearly missed it. The show's three producers are renting the theater through Aug. 8, but because it is not a Kennedy Center production, it has gotten little publicity.
One of the presenters is Robert Warren, an associate producer for "Shear Madness," which has been running at the Kennedy Center since before the Norman Conquest, or so it seems. His "Beehive" partners are Jeff Brown, a master technician in the Terrace Theater, and Ray Kennedy, a director out of North Carolina and Miami. Despite an initial misunderstanding, the Helen Hayes Awards has ruled "Beehive" eligible to compete as a Resident Musical.
Warren and his partners "mortgaged and borrowed and begged and stole" to put on "Beehive," he says. Next summer they plan to book the theater to present "Cole: The Words and Music of Cole Porter."
Rep Stage Season
Rep Stage in Columbia will open its next season with Tom Stoppard's adaptation of Anton Chekhov's "The Seagull" (Sept. 24-Oct. 10). Associate Artistic Director Kasi Campbell will guide a cast that includes Karl Miller, Helen Hedman, Nigel Reed, Megan Anderson, Bruce Nelson, Bill Largess, Bill Hamlin and Annie Houston.
Audrey Wasilewski will star in the East Coast premiere of "Becoming Adele" (Oct. 29-Nov. 21), a solo piece by Eric Houston about a New York waitress and single mom. Jackson Phippin will direct. Wasilewski has appeared at Woolly Mammoth and on TV shows such as "The West Wing," "ER" and "Ally McBeal."
Campbell will direct the area premiere of David Lindsay-Abaire's "Kimberly Akimbo" (Jan. 28-Feb. 20), about a teenager with a rare medical condition that causes her body to age too fast. Hedman, Nelson and Sherri L. Edelen will be in the cast.
The season will close with a revival of Lillian Hellman's "The Children's Hour" (Feb. 25-March 13), with Tana Hicken directed by her husband, Donald Hicken.
• The Black Women Playwrights' Group will hold a benefit showcase at Studio Theatre tonight at 7:30. "DNA: Drama, Nuance, Attitude" features "ruminations on DNA" by members of the group and a "guest monologue" from the 2003 National Black Theater Festival play "Runt," by Michael Phillip Edwards. "DNA" will move to the group's new home at the Mead Theater Lab, 916 G St. NW, July 9-Aug. 8. Call 800-494-8497 or visit www.boxofficetickets.com.
• The year-old Renegade Theater will present Cole Porter's "Anything Goes" at the Warehouse Theater tomorrow through July 18 and follow with "La Cage Aux Folles" Aug. 18-Sept. 5. Call 301-871-1487 or visit www.renegadedc.org.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company
Geraint Wyn Davies (right, with Ryan Artzberger) took on the lead role in Shakespeare Theatre's "Cyrano" even while playing Edmond in a New York production of "King Lear."