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CYRANO DE BERGERAC Royal George Theatre/Shaw Festival
By
Apr 15, 2022, 20:55
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Shaw Festival
Through May 8
CYRANO de BERGERAC Royal George Theatre/Shaw Festival

By Augustine Warner

Edmond Rostand’s “Cyrano de Bergerac” is usually seen as a play about a poetic guy with a big nose and love for his cousin Roxane (Deborah Hay).
It’s also a play about war, loyalty and social distancing.
The wonderful production at the Shaw Festival uses a new script and translation from Kate Hennig, a well-known playwright, director and actor.
Her script skips much of the formal English translation of Rostand’s formal French and turns it into modern colloquial English.
A play about hard times is appropriate for these times, times so tough that fully costumed actors moved up the aisle next to my seat, often wearing COVID masks until a step away from the stage.
The performers were looking out at several hundred people in the Royal George Theatre wearing masks.
Indicative in some ways, since Cyrano (Tom Rooney) wears a dramatic mask to avoid dealing with his love for Roxane (Deborah Hay) and tries to make her happy.
She has fallen in lust with Cyrano’s tongue-tied, cover of a romance novel soldier and company mate, Christian (Jeff Irving).
Unable to tell Roxane of his love, Cyrano, instead, agrees to help Christian by writing his lives for him to woo her.
It does give rise to a classic of the stage, a scene so reminiscent of “Romeo & Juliet,” with Roxane on a balcony, Christian below and an unseen Cyrano feeding him the lines to use.
This is all going on as Cyrano and Christian’s commander, DeGuiche (a wonderful performance from Patrick Galligan), is trying to persuade her to marry him.
Cyrano trots out an obliging friar to quickly marry the two and then both take off with their Guards regiment for the war against Spain in Arras.
As is so often true in French literature, Rostand used a real person in Cyrano, a real war with Spain and a real mysterious death as building blocks for his story.
Unsure about that?
Try Alexandre Dumas’ output of novels, built around real people and real history.
Most of the sequence outside Arras is beautifully done, although it does seem implausible that Roxane should be able to drive her coach through the Spanish lines with food for the starving Cyrano, Christian and their companions.
It’s great theater on Julie Fox’s wonderful sets for the tight space of the Royal George Theatre.
There’s also John Stead’s fine fight direction, essential in this look back at the violence of Cyrano’s time, including fights inside and outside his hangouts.
In real life, he may have been poetic and a wordsmith, but he was a well-known street brawler and good soldier in a time when a quickly drawn sword could save a life.
Enemies?
Probably, which is also why the whispers have come down to Rostand and to us that timber didn’t fall on his head from Paris’ notoriously crumbling buildings onto his head accidentally.
The final scene is years after Christian was killed in this siege of Arras and Roxane has retired to a convent, although not as a nun.
Every Saturday, de Bergerac comes to that convent to visit her, as she still misses Christian.
The nuns talk about it and DeGuiche, now a rich and powerful duke, is there and they talk about it until word arrives of Cyrano’s accident.
The swordsman evades help and comes to his visit, badly wounded and clearly dying, to talk of the past and read Christian’s last message, with Roxane suddenly realizing what has been going on all of these years.
She discovers his fatal injuries.
There are no secrets in this latest version of the story, since Rostand’s tale has been done over and over again, on stage, big and small screen and in multiple reworked versions.
The current Broadway version skips the nose, highly visible here to be seen across the Royal George.
Director Chris Abraham does a wonderful job with the story, the script and the stage.
He’s working with some of the Shaw’s best, Rooney, Galligan, Hay and the ensemble.
It’s all a fascinating look at one man’s willingness to evade his own happiness so that another can be happy.
If you can make it through the ArriveCAN and get across the border, Niagara-on-The-Lake and its attractions are still there.
Be aware that “Cyrano de Bergerac” doesn’t run all season.
Get there and see it.

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