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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

 
CYRANO DE BERGERAC
at American Airlines Theatre

DECEIVING APPEARANCES
By SANDY MACDONALD

  Patrick Page and Douglas Hodge/ Ph: Joan Marcus

A kind of double jeopardy attaches to Edmond Rostand’s 1897 classi, Cyrano de Bergerac. If the actor playing the fabled 17th-century swordsman adds an actorly ego to the already outsize persona of the character, the effect can be unbearable: obnoxiousness squared.
 
Douglas Hodge approaches the role obliquely. True, his Cyrano is nothing if not disputatious, disposed to dispatch any perceived opponent (such as Samuel Roukin’s delightful toff) at the merest hint of a dis. And yet, his much-vaunted body count notwithstanding, the poet-warrior operates according to a code of honor, and Hodge gets to the heart of his essentially decent and – yes – humble soul.
 
In the arena of love, of course, that Cyrano loses out before the battle has even begun – the result of his hideous physiognomy. Here the famous nose is not some semi-comic exaggeration but a grotesque, tuber-like growth (suggestive of the tertiary syphilis that plagued the real-life subject, who clearly found someone to disport with). This outcropping is an actual physical barrier that he must surmount, whether to project his forceful personality or merely to gulp down a glass of water.
 
Cyrano will never know, nor will we, whether his lovely cousin Roxanne (radiant Clémence Poésy)might have accepted him on his own merits. It’s clearly his words that win her – especially given a rather pallid performance by Kyle Soller as the tongue-tied young suitor whom she favors. For his own part, down to his heart-wrenching dying breath, Cyrano selflessly, self-sabotagingly deflects the slightest show of affection.
 
One might trudge to this production expecting to see a chestnut, at best freshly polished, but it feels like a brand-new play. Ranjit Bolt’s translation, with its naturalistic rhythms and disruptions, is especially felicitous. From designer/costumer Soutra Gilmour’s very first freeze-frame stage picture (a dank Paris courtyard giving off a miasmic mist), one senses the sure hand of a director, Jamie Lloyd, who knows what he's after and will capably overleap every last cliché.

 


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