Usually, the success of Cyrano de Bergerac depends upon the perfomance of the actor playing the French swordsman with the heart of a poet and the prodigious proboscis. Yet in the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company’s quality outdoor staging of the classic work, it’s the rest of the 40 member cast that supplies the panache which makes the evening entertaining and memorable.
For those unfamiliar with the story, Cyrano (Frank B. Moorman) is a proud soldier with the brains and talents of a true Renaissance man. And one outstanding facial feature. He loves from afar his cousin Roxane (Ty Hallmark), who in turn has fallen for a handsome young man named Christian (Theo Hadjimichael) newly assigned to Cyrano’s company in the Guard. Further complicating this romantic triangle is the fact that De Guiche (Dave Gamble), a powerful nobleman, is determined to force a marriage of convenience on Roxane that will allow him access to her charms. (A romantic quadrilateral?)
Ultimately Cyrano befriends Christian and lends his poetry to the inarticulate suitor while disguising his own feelings for Roxane. Cyrano decides it is better to have at least a partial role in winning her heart since he imagines she could not love a man with such a disfiguring nose. And what a nose it is in this production! Rebecca Ellis has created a prosthetetic device that would do Pinocchio proud.
Cyrano de Bergerac is a large work in size, cast, and lyrical themes. When done well, it offers a host of charms, including comedy, romance, drama, adventure, and tragedy and Chesapeake Shakespeare Company uses its classical background to do it very well.
Moorman handles the virtuoso role of Cyrano with a knowing intelligence and a droll sense of humor. The fact that he is a little seasoned for the role, however, undercuts the romantic credibility. In addition, due both to acting choices and the strain of a tremendous line load, Moorman fails to take full advantage of the opportunities to enjoy the passion of the character.
Fortunately, Moorman is surrounded by a wonderful cast. Ty Hallmark shines as Roxane, sweet and fair, aristocratic yet girlish at the same time. She beams the look of love when near Christian, including the second most famous balcony scene in English literature. It is Hallmark’s reactions that help make many of scenes, including the tragic finale, so touching.
Hadjimichael makes a fine Christian, deftly balancing the rough and ready soldier’s attitude with the tender side of the character. Gamble is intimidating and authoritative as the aristocratic scoundrel, while still giving the character the needed dimension.
The quality of the acting extends throughout the smaller roles. As Cyrano’s friend Le Bret, Michael P. Sullivan has a strong presence and a gift for handling expressive dialogue. Other memorable roleplayers include David Tabish as the pastry chef and poet Rageauneau, and Frank Mancino doubling as the poet-satirist Lignière and a Capuchin Monk.
Director Ian Gallanar demonstrates an adept feel for Cyrano de Bergerac and effectively summons the right energy from the cast to meet the dramatic demands of each scene. His choice of the well-regarded Burgess translation of the play (used by the Royal Shakespeare Company’s 1984 Broadway production) makes the dialogue and themes more accessible to broad audiences. Marilyn Johnson’s attractive period costumes and the appropriate setting of the ruins at the PFI Historic Park help the audience lose themselves in the seventeenth century era.
If you have ever enjoyed outdoor classical theatre in general or a past production of Cyrano de Bergerac in particular, it’s worth the drive to Ellicott City. The Chesapeake Shakespeare Company has a real nose for the spirit of Cyrano de Bergerac.
Cyrano de Bergerac
by Edmond Rostand
directed by Ian Gallanar
produced by Chesapeake Shakespeare Company
reviewed by Steven McKnight
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