Review by Greg Bossler of Cyrano de Bergerac: Cincinnati Shakespeare Company
Cincinnati Shakespeare Company has opened their current season with a solid production of Edmond Rostand’s classic melodrama Cyrano de Bergerac, based on the translation by Anthony Burgess, who infuses the original text with a 20th-century directness that doesn’t always suit the courtly artifice of its 17th-century setting. Still, the script is a judicious edit of Rostand’s five acts into five scenes, even with the extended exposition in the opening and closing scenes.
The well-known tale centers on the wartime love triangle involving the intelligent but homely Cyrano, who loves his cousin Roxane, who in turn lusts for the handsome but simple-minded Christian. However, the story primarily revolves around the title character, who is onstage for almost the entire three hours. Veteran company member Jeremy Dubin presents the swashbuckling writer with appropriate panache, equally comfortable with Gina Cerimele-Mechly’s inventive swordplay and Rostand’s extemporaneous poetry.
He is ably aided by Caitlin McWethy’s Roxane, who brings a refreshing moxie to the otherwise love-struck girl, and by costume designer Amanda McGee and wig master James Geier, who provide yards of courtly artifice, most elaborately for the theatergoers in the opening scene, including a riotous tangerine ensemble and cascading blond curls for Vicomte de Valvert.
Other standouts in the production include new company members Kyle Brumley as the overly proud Valvert and Tia LeShaun Davis as Roxane’s cheeky duenna, as well as company veterans Jared Joplin, who keeps a keen balance between the vengefulness and valor of Comte de Guiche, and Billy Chace, who presents baker Ragueneau’s poem to a lemon tart with delicious comic flair.
Director Brian Isaac Phillips makes good use of the simple set created by Andrew J. Hungerford, despite some missteps in scenic and lighting design. For example, the transformation of the bakery display into the castle ramparts is an inventive idea but a somewhat unwieldy reality, making for a long break before the last scene as the stage crew changed the set.
And the lighting in the final scene is off script. Roxane hands Cyrano what she assumes is Christian’s letter and wonders how he can read it in the dimming light of dusk. It is the climax of the play, where Roxane fully realizes Cyrano’s love and sacrifice — only the lights hadn’t dimmed yet.
Still, the production will be a welcome introduction to those few people unfamiliar with Cyrano and a welcome visit with an old friend for others.