Cyrano de Bergerac
Local Arts Reviews
Reviewed by Robi Polgar, Fri., July 20, 2001
Cyrano de Bergerac: Particular Panache
through July 21
Running Time: 2 hrs, 15 min
Love, when immersed in it, transforms a man into his opposite. Aware that the object of his desire is anywhere within eyeshot turns the brave cowardly, hearing her voice renders the boisterous dumb. The would-be lover's heart pounds at the sight of the girl he adores; he finds meaning in her glance, in a word thrown his way, ecstasy. An exquisite pain, then, proximity: all the things one wants to say but can't muster the courage to utter, since she, of course, doesn't really share those overwhelming feelings.
That one even exists in the consciousness, let alone the heart, of the girl is a laughable suggestion; and for a man who considers himself ugly, the idea is a non-starter. Only the beautiful can get the attention of the beautiful. Nothing helps the ugly man for whom life is full of self-derision and self-loathing. Even the greatest soldier in France, one of the arrogant Cadets of Gascony, Cyrano de Bergerac, possessed with a unique combination of courage, honor, wit, flair, and exquisite swordsmanship -- his "panache" -- cannot overcome feelings of inadequacy in the presence of that one girl, Roxane, that makes a mouse of this lion of a man.
The story of Cyrano, Roxane, and the handsome Christian de Neuvillette is one of theatre's best. Playwright Edmond Rostand wrought a brilliant, theatrical world where words are the equal of deeds and honor the equal of desire. It's a comic, tragic, romantic tour-de-force, and this particular translation, by Anthony Burgess, pays particular attention to the beauty and intricate cleverness of Rostand's words, creating a magical tempestous France, circa 1640.
This Vortex Summer Youth Theatre production (this is the 10th year that Vortex Repertory Company has run its summer theatre camp) plays up the comic elements of the story, mostly to good effect, and, although the heavily cut final act makes the tragedy just a little thin, leaving Roxane's enlightenment and Cyrano's demise a bit rushed, the production never loses touch with its romantic theatricality and verve. Performances by adult guest artist Mick D'arcy as Cyrano, Tyrrell Woolbert as Roxane, and Todd Essary as Christian (another guest artist) are equal parts honest and playful. Reveling in their roles, this trio knows it is playing beyond the footlights and directly to its audience. And that is what makes this play so special: It relishes its theatricality, which allows for a menagerie of scenes that defy logic but work perfectly in the context of the storytelling. Multiple casting in such outrageous storytelling is a must, and members of the youthful ensemble are well used in a variety of roles, as poets, theatre patrons, nuns, actors, cadets, bakers, and other members of Paris' panoply of citizens. Guest artist Clay Towery leads the lot, most notably as Viscount Valvert, doomed by loutishness and poor swordsmanship in the amazing Act One duel fought while Cyrano composes extemporaneous verse. Feathered hats off to Kari Perkins and Star Costumes for a costume design that is rich in detail and highly practical, given all those quick character shifts.
Finally, who better to direct such a theatrical outing than David Yeakle? He might go a bit far with the clowning where the text provides richer humor, but in bringing together this very large and mixed cast so successfully -- everyone appears to be having a good time working together (and this is the Summer Youth Theatre, so what could be more important than that?) -- Yeakle has managed to stage a charming story with his own particular panache.