Cyrano de Bergerac

  • Date:
    November 1, 2007
    Review by:
    Barbara Mehlman and Geri Manus

    Review by Barbara Mehlman and Geri Manus
    Clippings from the press

    A Review by Barbara Mehlman and Geri Manus.

    Finally, the Broadway stagehand strike is over, and the political and dysfunctional family plays continue unabated (always the stuff of meaty drama), but don't look down your nose at the recent revival of "Cyrano," the 19th century classic by French playwright, Edmond Rostand.

    Alright, that play on words may be pretty lame, but don't get your nose out of joint, for the nose jokes in "Cyrano" are probably some of the best ever written, even by Durante standards.

    "My nose precedes me by a quarter of an hour," Cyrano announces. "When it bleeds, it's the red sea." Delivered one-after-another, with the split-second timing of a standup comic, the jokes are Cyrano's way of dealing with his unhappy deformity. True, he is pre-empting the ridicule of those around him by getting there first, but more important, he uses them to hide his pain and perceived unworthiness. It is those awful feelings that shape his world view, one that precludes love.

    Cyrano, like Richard III, is a man who believes he is unworthy of love, but rather than choose a life of villainy, as did the eponymous monarch of the Shakespeare play, Cyrano chose instead a life of selflessness, allowing another to come before him and claim what he so desperately wants -- the love of Roxane -- so that she might have happiness.

    The character of Cyrano is larger than life, from the nose down. His charisma charms poets, musicians, and soldiers alike, but his low self-esteem keep men and women away from developing close relationships with him, which is the way he wants it. The sad thing here is that Cyrano is much-loved and admired by others, but he's unaware of it because, well, he can't see past his nose.

    And it's this perception -- essentially, "I am my nose" -- that keeps him from actively pursuing Roxane. As the story goes, his words woo from afar, delivered to Roxane from the mouth of the handsome Christian, though written with the pen of Cyrano. Knowing that it�s his words Roxane kisses, even as her lips touch the dashing soldier�s, Cyrano's ache is palpable to the last row of the theater.

    What this new production of "Cyrano" offers is a traditional rendering of the classic that is accessible to modern audiences, no small thanks to director David Leveaux. Kevin Kline, an inspired choice for Cyrano, gives us insight into the breadth and depth of this character, with a perfect blend of pathos and courage.

    In a hat sporting an opulent feather large enough to shield Josephine Baker, Kline cuts a swath as elegant as Errol Flynn. With impeccable timing, delivering lines dripping with sarcasm, Kline reveals Cyrano's impatience with society and its skewed priorities. Yet, in true Pagliacci fashion, he hides his inner longings as he makes all around him laugh.

    Jennifer Garner, acclaimed star of TV's "Alias," makes her Broadway debut, and captures our hearts as a spirited but tender Roxane. Chris Sarandon gives just the right amount of arm-twisting, mustache-twirling villainy to the role of Comte de Guiche, who demands Roxane's hand in marriage. And the exotically handsome, very articulate Daniel Sunjata proves to be an ideal choice as the tongue-tied Christian who wins Roxane's heart.

    The one drawback of this production is the set -- the cavernous stage, oversized chandeliers, and staircase that seems to descend from the sky, dwarf the characters. Though noble, it swallows the intimacy of the love story, and while Kline has the presence and physical bearing to fill this stage, the other cast members do not. As a result, the play slows when he is offstage.

    That said, "Cyrano" is still a marvelous production, and Kevin Kline and Jennifer Garner breathe new life into this timeless story. "Cyrano" is a play for any generation.

    Barbara Mehlman & Geri Manus

    What the press had to say.....

    What the press had to say.....

    "David Leveaux�s disarming revival... is a double shot of silvery hokum, sweet but surprisingly potent. And it goes down so easily, you�re drunk and misty-eyed before you know it."
    Ben Brantley
    New York Times

    "Drapes sail, the full moon hovers and leaves flutter. But it's the feelings that never ascend in the emotionally stillborn "Cyrano de Bergerac....Broadway's "Cyrano" needs more than a nose job. It's in need of a heart transplant. "
    Joe Dziemianowicz
    New York Daily News

    "A great play, it isn't - and I don't think I've ever seen a more casually enervated production of it. But while actors like Kline want to add the plume of Cyrano to their histrionic history, Rostand's heroic tear-jerker will somehow survive."
    Clive Barnes
    New York Post

    "How right it feels to have Kevin Kline in a world where bad poetry is a fighting offense. And Kline, arguably New York's best argument for a popular classical theater, is not the only deeply satisfying pleasure in "Cyrano de Bergerac,"... Jennifer Garner has moved with astonishing grace from being a TV double-agent in "Alias" to making her Broadway debut as Roxane."
    Linda Winer

    "An exuberant "Cyrano de Bergerac" awaits admirers old and new... a classy revival...Kevin Kline gleams as the valiant central figure of a star-crossed triangle shared with Jennifer Garner and Daniel Sunjata. Teeming with grand sentiments and a 27-member ensemble, this "Cyrano de Bergerac" may not be a revival for the ages, but it's certainly an old-fashioned treat this Broadway season. "
    Michael Sommers

    "Kevin Kline doesn't do a blessed thing wrong in the title role of "Cyrano de Bergerac." And, as his whip-smart inamorata, Roxane, Jennifer Garner does almost nothing right. Yet David Leveaux's boisterous revival ...never offers the lift one can receive from great or, in those rare but almost as unforgettable moments, terrible theater. It just lumbers around the stage, dragging along a slew of staggering drunkards, giggling wenches and preening soldiers like so many stray puppies. It looks expensive, and it feels cheap"
    Eric Grode
    New York Sun

    "Kline has everything the hero needs except, damagingly, proper support from his chief opposite numbers. The required dash and bonhomie are there, but the emotional heights and depths are shortchanged. Garner is a lovely Roxane, but her speech borders on baby talk and her demeanor is too girlish for a literary bluestocking capable of heroism. As the gorgeous but ineloquent Christian de Neuvillette..., Daniel Sunjata endows ordinariness with far too bad a name. Thus is Kline left stranded."
    John Simon

    "A tear or two should be shed at the play's heartbreaking conclusion, but this revival leaves one curiously dry-eyed. Quite a puzzlement, considering Kline's formidable technique. Maybe it's because the man can't do it alone. "Cyrano de Bergerac," after all, is a love triangle. And Kline has to hold up all three points.... Yet for real theatrical authenticity, you don't have to look any farther than Kline. He pretty much has to carry the play's emotional fireworks all by himself. "
    Michael Kuchwara
    Associated Press

    "It's all a little tame and sober: Even the soaring declarations of love lack intensity. A big part of the problem is the uneven cast. As the woman who inflames the passions of both men, Garner joins a recent succession of female movie stars -- Julia Roberts, Julianne Moore, Claire Danes -- whose Broadway bows were not exactly regrettable, but nothing to sing about, either..... More inadequate is Sunjata as the dashing but dullish soldier who enlists erudite Cyrano to give him words of love... his Christian is flat and too contemporary. When Sunjata and Garner are alone together onstage, untroubled by any kind of sexual connection, their lack of command over the language sucks the life out of the play."
    David Rooney