Saturday, November 24, 2012

theatre review CYRANO DE BERGERAC, Broadway, November 18

Edmond Rostand's most famous play Cyrano de Bergerac is one of the most produced plays on Broadway.  The classic love story of big nosed Cyrano, handsome yet inarticulate Christian and the beautiful Roxane who they are both in love with has received numerous translations from Rostand's original 1897 French version.  The latest translation by Ranjit Bolt written in 2007 is receiving it's Broadway debut in this production that ends its limited run tomorrow. 

With over a dozen productions on and off Broadway over the years, including at least two musicalized ones, and many film versions, Rostand's story is so timeless that even now, well over 100 years since it first premiered, the stirring and simple love triangle and the theme of honor at the center of the story still registers today. 

Clémence Poésy, Kyle Soller and Douglas Hodge
For anyone who hasn't seen a production of this story, here is the basic plot overview.  Cyrano is a cadet in the French army and he is in love with his cousin Roxane, but thinks she could never love him because of his very large nose. He discovers that Roxane is in love with the new recruit Christian and when she asks Cyrano to protect him, the two men form a friendship that includes Cyrano helping Christian woo Roxane with the words he can't quite seem to come up with to proclaim his love for her.  Over the course of many years, Cyrano continues to love Roxane from afar, and even during the war where Cyrano and Christian are sent to fight, he still writes love letters to her but signs them as if Christian wrote them.  The story ends many years later with the truth finally being revealed.

Douglas Hodge and Clémence Poésy
I believe the reason this play has been produced so many times is because Cyrano is such a likable character and deep down each one of us has our own version of a large nose that gives us our own self doubts, so we can easily identify with him.  The fact that he is also very lovable, intelligent, so well with words and still somewhat brash to those who are against him makes you root for him as well.  Also, the use of rhyming verse and the style of the language provide an air of romance with a sense of humor that make you pay attention.  Plus you just have to root for a guy with a big nose as the romantic lead!

Kyle Soller and Douglas Hodge
The trio of actors that lead this production are more than up to the challenge of not only honoring the tradition of this famous story but also to the task of the rhyming couplets that provide the foundation of the play.  Douglas Hodge is coming off his Tony winning turn in La Cage aux Folles last year and has the correct balance of strength, brashness, romance and self-doubt that elevate any Cyrano to the person that anyone with any physical short coming can relate to.  It is a winning and stirring performance and I hope Hodge will be remembered come Tony nomination time for his performance.

Clémence Poésy is a luminous Roxane and it is easy to see why Cyrano is in love with her.  Kyle Soller is a dashing yet youthful Christian and the scenes he has with Hodge and Poésy are lovely.  Patrick Page has the appropriate menace as De Guiche but also shows great empathy toward Cyrano at the end of the play. Seeing this toward the end of the run probably added to the layers that all of the actors are bringing to their parts as well as the relationships they've managed to build with each other throughout the run. 

Patrick Page and Douglas Hodge
Jamie Lloyd's direction is nicely centered with the appropriate tone and attention to ensuring the rhymes land correctly.  The use of the theatre for Cyrano's entrance was especially theatrical and magical and tied directly into the play since his entrance takes place in a theatre.  Bolt's translation is more on the grittier side and includes the use of some profanity that makes the more romantic and poetic moments really stand out.  The previous productions that I've seen have been more on the glamorous side so the combination of Bolt's language and Soutra Gilmour's barren set and costume design was quite effective.

Cyrano de Bergerac is one of those plays that when presented in a good translation, with good direction and a cast up to the task of the material never fails to register with an audience clamoring for a good piece of drama.  This latest production and translation is a touching and lovely production with a cast more than capable of delivering the goods.

highlights from this production:

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