LCN REVIEW OF CYRANO

Eleanor Cade Busby

"Cyrano de Bergerac," which opens Thursday at the Poe Theater in Newcastle, is a breath of fresh air.  Often this story is lost under a bulbous red nose and clowning in the lead character, Cyrano, and stereotypical stupidity in the handsome Christian.  Not so in Heartwood's production.

Fasten your seatbelts for swordplay, romance, unrequited love, laughs and heartbreak in "Cyrano de Bergerac."  Under the direction of Griff Braley, Heartwood's summer production has it all.

Set in Louis XIII's reign, it is the moving and exciting drama of one of the finest swordsmen in France, a gallant soldier, brilliant wit, tragic poet-lover with the face of a clown.  Edmund Rostand's extraordinary lyric powers gave birth to a universal hero - Cyrano de Bergerac - and ensured his own reputation as author of one of the best-loved plays in the literature of stage.

Heartwood Regional Theater is producing the translation by American poet, Brian Hooker.  The more familiar version by Anthony Burgess has a more lyric poetry and a dreamlike quality, but the Burgess version is also nearly three hours long.  What the Brian Hooker version lacks in lyricism, it makes up for in heart and approachability.  It is at once both contemporary and classic, and it moves at a lightning pace.

Here are gorgeous verses, a doomed romance for the ages and plenty of belly laughs.  This "Cyrano" is reminiscent of the true-hearted old movies that people watch again and again on late night television.  It has the heart of a Frank Capra film, the glamour of a Robin Hood, an unrequited love, deception and tragedy all tied up with literary lyricism.

This production cuts away to the dark, romantic heart of the piece, but realizes every moment of wild adventure with an energetic theatricality.  Swordplay is taken into the audienc,e as Cyrano fights 100 men in a night.  Humor abounds in the first act, giving way to the heart of the matter in Act 2.  It leaps from moment to moment and sentiment to sentiment with style, vifgor and swash-buckling work, by the finely tuned ensemble.

"Cyrano" succeeds or fails on the slender shoulders of Lukas Raphael.  As the gifted Gascony nobleman, Raphael is cause for both heart-break and joy. He personifies the most difficult emotion to send across the stage lights: longing.  Raphael, who makes the amazing prosthetic nose look good, has a vulnerability that makes his quiet sacrifice slice like a rapier across the heart.  His Cyrano is a rebelious rascal, a devoted companion, a trusted confidante.

Raphael's bravado is brilliant, tempered with the touch of sorrow often seen in the best of clowns, the regret that it is only by entertaining that one is noticed.  It takes a master to do this tragic hero justice.  It is a treat to witness the performance of one, who is yet so young.  This "Cyrano" appeals to hope, to that part of us that has grown weary of being cynical.

Marina Shay is luminous as Roxane.  Thankfully, she has given the oft-dumb character a believable life.  At last, we see a Roxane who, although misled in love, remains a strong woman.  She tricks her way past enemy lines, but not with inanity, with intellect and determination.  Her realization at the end of the play is powerfully done and adds greatly to the final moments.

Michael Golino is suitably handsome as Christian and thankfully not portrayed as a silly fop.  This Christian understands his limiations and sees his own shortcomings.  His scenes with Raphael played well, as the two became not only co-conspirators but friends.

The ensemble cast filsl the stage with action and finely drawn characterizations.  They appear as bakers, nuns, swordsmen, priests and buffoons; to single anyone out would be unfair.  They work as one, as a true company.  Kudos to all: Stephen Shore, Thalia Eddyblouin, Jeff Blanchette, Helena Farhi, Deirdre Manning, Tyson Bailey,  Joe McGrann, Dylan Bright, Ari Veach, Mark Bedell, Jay Pastucha and Jacob de Heer.

It is Griff Braley's direction that brings the world of the play to life.  His choice to allow his actors to explore the world of the real de Bergerac and to leave off the clownish touches in both the makeup and character of all his players is a fitting tribute to the actual man. By employing simple, effective methods of storytelling, Braley throws the spotlight onto the actors and the story in a true homage to love and poetry.

Cryano's famous nose is built by makeup artist, Katie Machaiek.  Sets and lights are by Tish Munson, Heartwood's long time Technical Director.  Period costumes are perfect and complete to leather and feather plumes.

Performances will run between July 23 and August 1.  Times and ticket prices vary.  For full deatils visit www.heartwoodtheater.org

 

 

 

 

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