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Review from The Intelligencer Journal, Sept. 15, 2000
by Michael Long

Love and beauty - inextricably bound, frustrating in their complexities, altogether subjective.

Am I loved for my beauty?  If I was beautiful, would I be loved?  Am I beautiful because I am loved?

Ask that handsome couple.  They've got it goin' on.  Maybe they know.

Four stories above the traffic on South Prince Street, sitting at a patio table on the open terrace outside the Fulton Opera House's studio theater, actors Trent Dawson and Melissa Chalsma dress the terrace well.

They are young, kind, witty and easy on the eyes.  Dawson is traditionally handsome, with tan skin, blond hair, green eyes and a toned physique.  Chalsma is a petite blond with arresting blue eyes.  By most measures, they are two of the beautiful people.  And beauty is part of the biz.

"It is something you are very aware of, yes," said Dawson, a Baton Rouge, La. native who has been plying his trade in New York for six years.  "You have to have a real sense of what you project aesthetically when you walk up to a situation."

Dawson's aesthetic, in part, landed him the recurring role of villain Henry Coleman on the CBS daytime drama "As the World Turns."  Soaps, he said, magnify the visual aspect of his job.

"It's odd to be on a soap and have the vanity aspect," said Dawson, who prior to his work with CBS, was primarily a stage actor.  "The first time I saw myself on television I started picking apart every little element that was wrong.  'Look at those bags.  That's the beer from the weekend.'  So I'm much more conscious of that."

Chalsma, a consummate off-Broadway actress, is equally aware of the importance of physical beauty in her work.

"Looks do matter," Chalsma said.  "And it's a shame that they do."

Cyrano de Bergerac, the storied sword-fighting Parisian aesthete whose love for his cousin Roxanne was only exceeded by the length of his nose, would agree.

Dawson and Chalsma are cast in the roles of young lovers Christian and Roxanne in "Cyrano," an adaptation of Edmond Rostand's classic play which opens at the Fulton this week.

"Cyrano" speaks to the problem of beauty.  It is the story of two men - one with a beautiful face and one with beautiful words - who must work together for the love of a woman.

When Roxanne and Christian see each other at the theater, they fall in love at first sight.  Roxanne, who loves and trusts her cousin Cyrano dearly, asks Cyrano to befriend and care for Christian.

Christian, whose heart is as pure as his tongue is tied, asks Cyrano to be his mouthpiece and capture his love for Roxanne in words, not knowing that Cyrano is himself in love with Roxanne.

"I read this play, and I see all these missed opportunities," Chalsma said.  "What if Christian had just tried to speak in his own voice?  Maybe Roxanne would have fallen in love with that guy who is sincere and earnest, and shy and tongue-tied.  Or what if Cyrano had been able to speak his love?"

At the outset of the play, Roxanne is young and unworldly and falls in love with Christian because of his good looks.  But by the end of the play, 15 years later, Roxanne is an experienced woman who could have easily loved Cyrano.

Chalsma said the play illustrates well the difference between mature and immature love.

"Both loves are very profound," Chalsma said, "but the vision is different.  What's important is different.  What you're attracted to is different as you go through life."


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