I wanted to like this production of Cyrano by The New Group, now playing Off-Broadway's Daryl Roth Theatre. I am a fan of Peter Dinklage (who has the briefest bio in the Playbill) having first seen him in the movie "Station Master." In addition, I heard great things about Erica Schmidt’s direction of Red Bull Theater’s Mac Beth earlier this. I was psyched.
Sadly, this production did not cooperate with my wishes. Initially it could stem from the story itself – a tale of Roxanne (Jasmine Cephas Jones) a young woman of no means, who is nevertheless turning heads in 1640 France. She is adored by her distant cousin and closest friend Cyrano (Peter Dinklage) and ogled over by the Evil Count De Guiche (Ritchie Coster), but she only has eyes for a slump shouldered but adorable soldier, Christian (Blake Jenner). We are asked to care about these people, but not given sufficient cause to gin up any emotion.
In the original play, Cyrano was hampered by his large nose, which made him an oddity who was filled with doubt. In this version it is once again size, but this time the lack of it, that interferes with Cyrano’s desire. This is never mentioned – only implied.
There is a war on (isn’t there always?) and the Count is ready to take command of his army and Roxanne. She would do well to let him because she has no money. But of course, love wins. Love wins because Cyrano becomes Christian’s voice. First with letters, then in actual fact while Roxanne pines away on her balcony. But when Roxanne commits the outrage of marrying Christian, the Evil Count orders both Christian and Cyrano to battle where he hopes both will die an ugly death. Only half a wish is granted.
Cyrano survives, but Roxanne goes into permanent mourning for Christian. The story picks up 15 years later where Roxanne is tending to her garden and awaiting a visit from Cyrano who visits regularly. Those around her mention that Cyrano is not well, and she refuses to believe it. But when he visits her that day it is clear, and when he asks to read Christian’s last letter to her, but recites instead of reading – the jig’s up. Too late. The story ends with declarations of love and Cyrano’s death.
I never hooked in, no matter how I tried. On the positive side, this show’s entire design is intriguing and almost operatic in its specificity. The choreography and choral were superb, and the songs worked best delivered by the ensemble. Everything served to create an ethereal world of love and treachery that wove together like a French Braid. As to the performances, Dinklage and Coster stood out. Cyrano and De Guiche arrived to party fully formed and three dimensional. Ms. Cephas Jones and Mr. Jenner felt vague and uncertain – this is a problem as the entire story depends on them. It may have been the script to begin with, but at some point we need to see or at least feel the electricity. As it was, I couldn’t figure out why either of them was a hot catch, ergo there was no investment on my part.
I remained outside the party looking in through the window.
(Photo by Monique Carboni)
"Presumably, most of those who have gathered to see Cyrano, as this New Group production is called, are there for the express purpose of setting eyes upon the possessor of that voice, Peter Dinklage... The man who won four Emmy Awards playing Tyrion, I hasten to announce, is by no means a disappointment as the witty, wily and dangerously underestimated title character of Cyrano, a musical adaptation of Edmond Rostand’s classic by Erica Schmidt, who is also the show’s director (and Dinklage’s wife)."
Ben Brantley for New York Times
"As a platform for the swoon-worthy Peter Dinklage, the New Group’s musical take on Edmond Rostand’s classic 1897 romance, Cyrano de Bergerac, has seductive moments. But it’s hard to fall in love with this confounding production."
Raven Snook for Time Out New York
"In 2003, the rock band the National released an album called “Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers.” That would also make a good title for their new musical, Cyrano, which opened off-Broadway Thursday night. Because every song is mind-numbingly sad, and I hear 17th-century Paris wasn’t big on bathing."
Johnny Oleksinski for New York Post
"There's no prosthetic nose in writer-director Erica Schmidt's streamlined new take on Edmond Rostand's 1897 verse drama Cyrano de Bergerac, and most of the quips about the title character's plus-size proboscis have been excised. But the defensive pride and haunted solitude of the outsider who believes his appearance means that no woman could ever love him cuts deep in a transfixing performance from Peter Dinklage, bristling with humor, pathos and fierce magnetism. He's ably backed by Jasmine Cephas Jones as Roxanne and Blake Jenner as the dim pretty boy who lacks the words to woo her in this evocative alt-musical, with an original score by members of The National."
David Rooney for Hollywood Reporter
"It’s pride and not panache that drives this overly spare and gloomy musical adaptation of that classic tale of unrequited love and honor, Cyrano de Bergerac. Despite a mesmerizing performance by Peter Dinklage, hot off “Game of Thrones,” and a haunting score by members of the band The National, this Cyrano is so reductive — the musical runs just two hours — that instead of an epic narrative poem of yearning, brio and noble sacrifice, there’s just a haiku of rue."
Frank Rizzo for Variety