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NY Theater Reviews

Daniel Sunjata as Christian/ PH: Carol Rosegg

WORDS TO PIERCE THE HEART, A SWORD WHEN ALL ELSE FAILS

By Bill Stevenson

Kevin Kline and Cyrano go hand in sword. His boundless energy propels the play forward. Never does this story of unrequited love flag when he bestrides the stage

Certain roles fit an actor like a glove. So it is with Cyrano and Kevin Kline, who is simply sensational as Edmond Rostand's hero, who is famously blessed with a lightning-quick wit and cursed with an oversize nose. Kline's costars, Jennifer Garner and Daniel Sunjata lend fine but less flashy support, and David Leveaux directs with the kind of panache Cyrano would admire.

Leveaux-known for the stylish Broadway revivals Jumpers, Nine, and The Real Thing orchestrates another smart-looking production here, aided by Tom Pye's gorgeous set. Using the height of the Richard Rodgers stage to excellent effect, the set features an exposed brick wall, a staircase worthy of Norma Desmond, a chandelier, flickering candles, and an array of colorful curtains. One curtain falls to announce the arrival of the beautiful Roxane (Garner, of TV's Alias). Cyrano's appearance is even more dramatic: He proclaims his first lines perched on the railing of box seats.

From that moment on, Kline dominates the production as Cyrano, who passionately loves his cousin Roxane but learns that she loves the handsome soldier Christian (Sunjata). I have the words Cyrano says. If only I had the looks. He decides to help Christian, who becomes the interpreter of Cyrano's rhapsodic expressions of love for Roxane.

Throughout the funny but lengthy first half and the darker but shorter second half, Kline's boundless energy propels the play. He's as adept at swashbuckling swordplay as he is with witty wordplay (Anthony Burgess'

well-regarded translation and adaptation of Rostand's 1897 play). Populated by a large cast, the production (which runs nearly two hours and forty-five minutes) only occasionally slumps-and that's on the rare occasion that Kline isn't commanding the stage. His Lear at the Public may have received mixed reviews, but his Cyrano is a triumph. (In my book, Kline's Cyrano is right up there with Derek Jacobi's in the Royal Shakespeare Company staging that played Broadway in 1984-85.)

In her Broadway debut, Garner makes a lovely Roxane. She's feisty early on and affecting during the final scene.

Unfortunately, her voice isn't powerful and isn't nearly as pretty as she is. Since she has spent most of her career doing TV and movies, it's no wonder she's not used to filling a large Broadway theater with her voice.

Sunjata's voice is strong, and he's suitably dashing and somewhat dim as Christian. He could loosen up a bit, though, and show more of the charisma he displayed in Take Me Out. The only real disappointment is Chris Sarandon's Comte de Guiche, who could be far more villainous.

Still, Leveaux and Kline have given us a Cyrano to remember. One hopes that audiences will support it so that producers will continue to present great literary plays along with fluffy, undemanding musicals.