Saturday, October 20, 2012

Theater Review: Cyrano de Bergerac

A Nice-to-Look-at Version of the Poet Who isn't So Nice to Look at
By Lauren Yarger
Aah, Cyrano. So eloquent and moving on paper, yet unable to express himself in the flesh. Much the same can be said of most theatrical productions of Edmond Rostand's 1897 play Cyrano de Bergerac too, unfortunately. It's moving to read, but difficult to stage.

Roundabout Theatre Company is giving it a go, however, on Broadway with a translation by Ranjit Bolt and Douglas Hodge (Tony Award winner for La Cage aux Folles) in the title role. Clemence Poesy as Cyrano's love interest Roxane and Kyle Soller, as her mistaken love, Christian, both are making their Broadway debuts. Veteran Patrick Page (Spider-Man Turn off the Dark among many others) plays the married Compte de Giche, who also is smitten with Roxane's beauty.

The mistaken identities, sword fighting, poetry and undying love take place against a spectacular set (Soutra Gilmour, who also designs the lovely 17th-century inspired costumes) of colossal grey stoned edifices with arched windows and doorways. It looks great. The old-fashioned story kind of gets lost up there, however. Hodge brings a lot of energy to his Cyrano, but there isn't any depth to the character. He's boisterous and demands attention, but we don't feel the pain behind the man forced to cover his shame about his ugly appearance (he has a huge nose for those of you possibly not familiar with the story which I won't repeat here -- I'll refer you instead to the SparkNotes) with a bravado in battle and a razor-sharp wit as deadly as the sword he brandishes in battle.

Hodge is so forceful and full of energy sometimes, that it is hard to understand what he's saying in such rushed, loud tones. And some of the more famous lines form the play seem to get lost up there too in all the noise (Cyrano himself makes a loud, baning entrance through the house). Not only are battles raging, lights flashing (Japhy Weiderman, design), guns firing (Dan Moses Schreier, sound design) and swords crossing (fight direction is by Jacob Grigolia Rosenbaum), but Director Jamie Lloyd has some really annoying musicians strolling around playing music (by Charlie Rosen) under the dialogue too.

Famous lines get lost -- and they, in addition to the deep, self-sacrificing character of Cyrano, are what make this story so endearing. The poetry is rushed. It's not clear what Cyrano is doing at first when he lists a number of possible ways to say "large nose" better than what Valvert (Samuel Roukin) has managed to come up with when he refers to it as being "big."

Worse, we aren't aware of Cyrano's pain when he shows courage " better since" when he is rejected by Roxane in favor of Christian. I barely noticed when Roxane regretted having "loved but one man to lose him twice." Usually that has me breaking out the hankies. For some reason Lloyd has her deliver the line from several feet away from her love instead of at his side. Odd, since
A kiss, when all is said, what is it?
An oath that's ratified, a sealed promise,
A heart's avowal claiming confirmation,
A rose-dot on the 'i' of 'adoration';
A secret that to mouth, not ear, is whispered ...

Aah. Cyrano still can some court me with poetry under my balcony any time.

It's a fun-to-watch version for loving, longing eyes and some of actors in minor roles deliver some nice comedic moments. It's just not the moving words of Cyrano that I hoped would grope their way to find my ear.
Cyrano de Bergerac runs through Nov. 25 at American Airlines Theatre, 227 West 42nd St., NYC. Tickets: 212-719-1300.

Christians might also like to know:
-- God's name taken in vain

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com/.

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (http://ctarts.blogspot.com), an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for BroadwayWorld.com and is a theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer. She previously served as Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp.com and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle and the CT Press Club.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.

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All material is copyright 2008- 2017 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact reflectionsinthelight@gmail.com

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Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

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I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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