Cyrano de Bergerac, by Edmund Rostand, translated and adapted by Anthony Burgess
Directed by Donna Feore
Featuring Colm Feore, Mike Shara, Amanda Lisman
The story: Marching to the beat of his own drummer, Cyrano de Bergerac is a daring soldier who fears only that he shall never earn the love of the beautiful Roxane because of his excessively large nose. He instead chooses to use his talent for poetry to help Christian - a handsome but helplessly inarticulate soldier – to win Roxane’s affections. However, the jealous Compte de Guiche sends them both to war, where Christian learns of Cyrano’s deep love for Roxane and insists that she be told, but Roxane will lose them both before she learns the truth.
Cyrano de Bergerac is stage swashbuckling at its very finest. Seventeenth-century period gowns, capes, and bucket boots designed by Santo Loqasto, bold, romantic musical scoring by Leslie Arden, and enough intricate and well-executed sword-play to make Errol Flynn proud. With all the clashing rapiers, director Donna Feore’s set gets very busy at times, but even though one needs to shield one’s eyes against the flash of the booming canons and cracking muskets, the cacophony adds to the sheer excitement of its action, and gives the calmer moments even more distinction than they naturally contain.
Colm Feore brings Cyrano to life with all the panache that the character claims for himself. This is Mr. Feore’s show, plain and simple. His comic timing, emotional delivery and speech rhythms (even in French) are as sharp as his sword-work, and while he does not carry the show – that would be unfair to the other actors, some of whom turn in very fine performances – Mr. Feore’s power is a few notches stronger than anyone else on stage, and audiences know it. Whether it be for his portrayal of a man in the anguished throes of unrequited love, or as a man refusing to conform to society’s conventions, only those with hearts of stone will be unmoved by Mr. Feore’s performance.
Amada Lisman is effervescent as the clever Roxane – lively and beaming, one can almost feel her inner joy emanating from the stage. Her performance only lacks in one aspect in that she remains too buoyant in the second part of the play, where Roxane should gain some maturity or gravity. As such, she does not meet Mr. Feore on the same level in this half, particularly in Cyrano’s dying moments, which decreases their poignancy together.
The best stage-chemistry is actually between Mr. Feore and Mike Shara, who plays the affable but tongue-tied Christian. It is most notable in their repartee which is very quick in both their first encounter and in the “balcony” scene, although Mr. Shara holds his own when meeting with Roxane alone: he creates a stilted, nervous suitor whose awkwardness would charm the socks off of any other woman. Yet Mr. Shara also gives the role a sense of grave dignity towards the end of the play, allowing the audience to grieve for Christian almost as much for Cyrano.
Living up to his surname, Wayne Best adroitly turns Le Bret, Cyrano’s close friend, confidant and foil, into a man both infuriated and awed by the soldier-poet – in a brilliant bit of staging the two share a quiet sub-text moment, where Mr. Best demonstrates perfectly the bond between the characters without saying a word. John Vickery is perfectly detestable as Cyrano’s nemesis, Compte de Guiche, with his haughty (and slightly lecherous) delivery, and rounding out the better performances is Steve Ross as the rotund baker-poet, Rageneau – it is Mr. Ross’s flustering panic near the play’s end that really sells how badly Cyrano has been injured.
There are two things one should know about this production when preparing to attend it. The text is poetry, and Ms. Feore has translated bits of it back into the original French. However, the rapid switching from English to French and back again never interrupts the flow of the play, nor does it impair one’s understanding of what is happening (not even for those of us who only have a “cereal box” level of understanding of the language). Another thing is the aforementioned thundering and utterly blinding canon blasts and musket shots in the second half - be prepared to plug your ears for the minute or so that it lasts.
Funny, romantic, adventurous and heroic, Cyrano de Bergerac has something for everyone, and is a must-see for the entire family. It continues in repertory until November 1st at the Festival Theatre.
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