Cyrano de Bergerac
Adapted by Anthony Burgess
From the play by Edmond Rostand
Directed by Melinda Crecelius
Review by Annette Skaggs
Entire contents copyright © 2017 Annette Skaggs. All rights reserved.
It says something about a man who inspires another man, centuries later, to write a play loosely based on him, whose work is still performed and dissected and created into even more iterations well over a hundred years later. Such is the fictionalized play Cyrano de Bergerac, first written by Edmond Rostand in 1897 and based on the real 17th Century Cyrano de Bergerac. The tale of Cyrano is romantic and formulaic in its premise: unattractive man Cyrano yearns for his comely distant cousin Roxanne but is charged instead with helping to bring Roxanne and the young soldier Christian together. It is an overt love story, but one that, to this very day, is subject to many remakes, and even studies in science and linguistics.
Commonwealth Theatre Center has chosen to produce Anthony Burgess’ translation of the play, written in verse. While the play is delivered in a style that is similar to some of Shakespeare’s works, it does not imitate. The placement of words and phrases need to be exact and precise and I am happy to say that CTC’s young actors did quite admirably in tackling that task.
While the play is in English there are a lot of French references, especially since the play is set in 17th Century France during the Battle of Arras, not the Thirty Years War. Because of the French names and references, it is easy for English-speaking audiences to get lost in the language. While I don’t know if the cast and crew of this Cyrano were afforded some behind the scenes instruction on French pronunciations and etiquette, there were some noticeable continuity errors in the mispronunciations of characters and references, but not so much that one could not figure out what or who was being talked about.
While the play centers around three characters: Christian (Aditya Dixit), Roxane (Andrea Lowry) and Cyrano (Parker Henderson), there are a few secondary roles that are important to the story line. Ragueneau the baker, delightfully played by Ruthie Dworkin, is a fan of Cyrano’s and assists in his escapades. The Comte de Guiche believes that he is to marry the fair Roxane but is outwitted and outsmarted by both Roxane and Cyrano. Kellen Murphy plays the part very well, giving the character an air of entitlement. Perhaps, had it not been for the character of Le Bret, we may not know about Cyrano. It is believed in most academic circles that Le Bret was a trusted friend of Cyrano’s and his biographer. Francis Rippy’s take on the character very much encapsulated their “I got your back” relationship.
Mr. Dixit very much looked the part of the young and handsome Christian, and the fun of his interpretation was how he reminded me of a love-struck teenager, which is probably just as it should be portrayed. But he showed maturity as he realized Cyrano’s devotion to Roxane. Speaking of, Ms. Lowry’s Roxane is a delight; intelligent and beguiling, it is clear to see how those around her could not help but be entranced.
For anyone that is interested in taking on the role of Cyrano please be aware that there are a lot of words. Cyrano is speaking at least 90% of the nearly three hour-long play. Cyrano’s delivery, other than in stanza-like cadences, is reminiscent of the spit-style that is popular now. My feathered cap I doth take off to Parker Henderson, who took on the Herculean role with vim, vigor and panache. While there were some instances where I thought he might have over-played, it seemed to fit the larger than life legend of Cyrano.
The whole of the company, down to the lowly soldier or nun, held their own against the principles. As Constantin Stanislavski famously quoted “There are no small parts, only small actors”.
The production team was pitch perfect, including sound design with appropriate music for the era and situation. Melinda Crecelius’ direction had purpose and flow. However, perhaps the actors who bear side arms can be a little more cognizant of space when near front row patrons.
So if you are looking for a little bit of swashbuckling fun and intelligent prose come to Commonwealth Theatre Center for their intriguing Cyrano de Bergerac.
Cyrano de Bergerac
January 26 – February 4, 2017
Tickets – Evenings:
$15 adult, $10 student/senior
Matinees (Saturdays and Sundays):
$10 adult, $8 student/senior
Nancy Niles Sexton Stage
Commonwealth Theatre Center
1123 Payne Street
Louisville, KY 40204
Annette Skaggs is heavily involved as an Arts Advocate here in Louisville. She is a freelance professional opera singer who has performed throughout Europe and in St. Louis, Cincinnati, Boulder, Little Rock, Peoria, Chicago, New York and of course Louisville. Aside from her singing career, she has been a production assistant for Kentucky Opera, New York City Opera, and Northwestern University. Her knowledge and expertise have developed over the course of 25+ years’ experience in the classical arts.