Critic’s Choice: Ambition and the unexpected mark ‘Miravel’ by Sacred Fools


Edmond Rostand meets Hermann Hesse at the Village Vanguard in “Miravel” at Sacred Fools.

Author-performer Jake Broder’s mash-up of Rostand’s deathless “Cyrano de Bergerac” and Hesse’s novel “Gertrude” has some post-larval quirks, yet a compelling undertow propels its jazz-centric romantic triangle.

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Subtitled “The Promise of Alphonso Bloch,” the piece opens with lame, renowned jazz composer Alphonso (Broder, intrepid as ever) discovering a letter left under his piano, which segues us back to conservatory days.


Here, visionary neo-classicist Alphonso meets two people who upend his reclusive aerie. Henry Brooks (a revelatory Will Bradley), a womanizing radio singer with scant creativity, wanders into Alphonso’s rehearsal session and cues up an acidulous friendship.

Enter the titular character (the wonderful Devereau Chumrau), discovered napping under the piano, an aspiring dancer and born muse. One needn’t know from “Cyrano” or “Gertrude” to guess what happens.

Well, except that under Shaunessey Quinn’s smooth direction, unexpected dissonances erupt, as Alphonso’s Cyrano/Kuhn stand-in paves the way for Henry’s Christian/Muoth and Miravel’s Roxanne/Gertrude, despite his own imploding desire.

“Miravel” is highly specialized, and though structurally sound, some tweaks are needed. Exactly why Miravel abandons dance is murky, Act 1 could be trimmed, and one more interpolated standard to contrast with Broder’s evocative compositions couldn’t hurt.

That said, the designs are solid, particularly R. Christopher Stokes’ lighting; the back-up combo -- Colin Kupka (saxophone), Michael Alvidrez (bass) and Kenny Elliott (drums) -- is righteous, as is Paul Litteral’s music direction; and the cast plays it to the hilt.


Broder’s hip bona fides have been previously established by his Louis Prima and Lord Buckley, but the conflicted gravitas he registers here is something else again. Bradley, pitched somewhere between James Franco and Kurt Elling, displays unsuspected scat virtuosity, and Chumrau’s physical and histrionic quality is exactly right, wry and affecting.

“Miravel” won’t be for all tastes, but it’s no mere work-in-progress, either, and this singular, bluesy chamber work scores in haunting intensity.

“Miravel,” Sacred Fools Theater Company, 680 N. Heliotrope, Hollywood. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Ends Dec. 19. $25. (310) 281-8337 or www. Running time: 2 hours.


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