Through October 20
CYRANO DE BERGERAC Royal George Theatre/Shaw Festival
The nose is back.
In innumerable scripts, adaptations and translations, the story of "Cyrano de Bergerac" remains fascinating to the theater audience.
It’s a story of a man emotionally crippled because he has a very large nose and in the Shaw Festival production it must be large enough to be seen in the balcony of the Royal George Theatre (that large).
Cyrano de Bergerac (Tom Rooney) is a swordsman and member of an elite military unit, a poet, a man about town in medieval Paris and in love with a cousin, Roxane (Deborah Hay).
That’s where the story twist occurs.
She’s in love with the bozo Christian (Jeff Irving) and Cyrano must back off and ultimately help in the other man’s pursuit of their beloved.
He even helps Christian marry Roxane and hold off de Guiche (Patrick Galligan) who wants to marry her.
There are a series of incidents where Cyrano is the puppeteer for Christian in his love quest.
It doesn’t occur to him that Cyrano is speaking the words he would like to speak to Roxane himself, but can’t because of friendship.
Obviously, these aren’t the words of Edmond Rostand who wrote the classic French play but those of Kate Hennig who translated and adapted the script and added some music and song.
She’s having a career year with one of the plays she wrote for herself on stage at the Stratford Festival and she’s now the Shaw’s associate artistic director.
Hennig admits in a program note that some of the script was smoothed out in rehearsals.
The heart of the story is the siege of Arras where Colonel de Guiche is in command and the battle is going badly in terms of things like food and water while Cyrano is managing to write and send letters off to Roxane in Christian’s name.
In battle, Christian dies after Roxane has arrived with love and food.
Cyrano continues the charade and Roxane doesn’t recognize what her cousin has done.
Cyrano is wounded in the key battle.
Years later, Roxane is living in a Paris convent and Cyrano visits her once a week from his poverty-stricken home.
In an incident ripped from the headlines, a beam falls on Cyrano and he is fatally wounded.
The historical Cyrano died that way and it may have been a successful murder attempt.
Still, he manages to make it to Roxane’s convent, dying.
She doesn’t realize how badly injured her cousin is until he’s in the final stages of death in front of her.
Then, she realizes who wrote those letters and created those words and it’s too late.
“Cyrano” is one of those scripts where you know where the story is going, like “Hamlet.”
Still you can be enthralled.
Hennig and director Chris Abraham could have tightened this show up considerably because several scenes run far longer than necessary, like the scene in Ragueneau’s bakery and even the scenes in the siege of Arras.
Abraham benefits from a masterly scenic design from Julie Fox which is swiftly changed as the audience watches.
The key aspect of “Cyrano de Bergerac” that he benefits from is a strong cast of Shaw stars and stalwarts.
Galligan is a thoroughly evil de Guiche, Rooney is strong and Hay is even stronger and Tanja Jacobs’ Le Bret is there to protect Cyrano from de Guiche and his own lack of common sense.
In the real years afterwards, Le Bret tells the story of Cyrano which has come down to us.
Without him, who would know of the man with the vast nose and vast loyalty?
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