Even before the curtain speech is over, you will be drawn into this beautiful show. The costumes are delicious, lit with great skill, in beautiful tableau. You will be transported visually and emotionally into the world of Cyrano de Bergerac, playing now through October 3 at the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company.
The play revolves around the triangle of bold, valorous, and eloquent Cyrano, who loves deeply, but feels unlovable as he is disfigured with a long nose. Roxanne is his life-long love, the muse for his poetry, the lady for his heroic valor, but she sees him only as a platonic friend, and enlists him to protect her crush, Christian, a “non-entity blessed with a pretty face,” and a “guileless dolt.” You are taken from the French court to a battle field and more, witnessing the charm, bravery and wit of Cyrano, wonderfully portrayed by Jeremy Dubin, as he both loves Roxanne, yet honors her request to protect and support his rival yet brother in battle, Christian. Dubin’s comic timing, and connection with the audience, elicit cheers, and possibly a few tears, as he shows his mastery with a sword and recitations of the pen. Roxanne is a girl with moxie, as well as charm. She is a little bit Scarlett O’Hara riding her carriage through a battle, a little bit Cher from Clueless, and some Elle Woods from Legally Blonde thrown in. She is memorably played by Caitlin McWethy. Newcomer Grant Niezgodski embodies Christian, a young, spoiled “jock” at first, who wins over the audience with humor, then valor.
Director Phillips’ attention to detail is wonderful, from Cyrano to the serving maids, and the performers are top notch—expected of CSC regulars, but the newcomers are also exceptional. (Tia Leshaun Davis does so much with simply a look.) Andrew Hungerford’s lighting is rich and evocative, and Amanda McGee’s costumes are some of the best and most lavish in Cincinnati, since the last tour of Broadway’s Beauty and the Beast.
This translation by Anthony Burgess of Edmund Rostand’s heroic classic is the weakest link of this wonderful production. In the effort to make it accessible to a wide range of audience, it is sometimes jarringly modern, missing some romanticism of other translations.
I highly recommend this powerful and visually appealing tale, as the” ugly beast” (with great panache!) does valorous deeds for unrequited love of the fair and bold maiden.