Frank Langella's Cyrano
I know all about enormous noses, but unfortunately as Loni can attest I’m not quite the poet. Fortunately though Cyrano does have a way with words and it proves to be a formidable ally in all things love and war. City Lights Theater again does yeoman’s work, this time with a highly enjoyable adaptation of Edmond Rostand’s classic Cyrano de Bergerac.
As Cyrano, Jeff Kramer (founder ComedySportz) delivers a measured performance, emphasizing “panache” over winks, smirks and guffaws. It’s effective and results in a production that emphasizes tragedy and sadness over misunderstanding and forlorn love. You feel that this is a man succumbing to his inner demons; his insecurities and vulnerabilities hidden behind a cloak of clever intellect and witty words. But at what cost?
The prosthetic in question here is more Wicked Witch and less Steve Martin (for those familiar with the film version). It works. Cyrano, although playful and jest-like earlier, is ultimately dark, brooding, and forever contemplating thanks to the nose fate dealt him.
Director Kit Wilder calls Frank Langella’s treatment an “intimate deconstruction.”
Several scenes, characters have been streamlined or omitted all together resulting in a “modern,” more efficient version of the famous tale. And although the production is still meaty at over two hours, it never feels long thanks to a spirited and capable cast.
Sarah Griner as Roxane also delivers a strong performance as the object of desire to so many men. As does Joshua Marx as Christian, the lover who struggles to express his emotions.
One of the highlights, and when the play really kicks into gear, is the wooing scene. Under the darkness of night, Cyrano feeds love-struck Christian romantic lines with sprinkles of poetic lust, while Roxane beams in a balcony above, unaware of the shenanigans.
Against the backdrop of war, however, the story takes a twist in the second act, where the seriousness of early decisions bear consequence on the men who feel conflicted and powerless when it comes to matters of the heart. Fast forward fifteen years, and in a convent Roxane makes the final discovery. Jeff Kramer then delivers a superb monologue that leads to a dramatic, and fittingly accomplished close.
At first I was distracted by the obvious Nike and Docker’s logos readily apparent beneath simple wardrobe. After reading Kit Wilder’s notes now I understand the goal, “…an actor clad in jeans and a t-shirt need only don a cape and strap on a sword to transform himself, as if by magic, into a seventeenth century hero… Why not, it occurred to us, share with the audience this unique phenomenon?”
In retrospect it’s a clever decision and give the production a fresh, modern edge.
One thing lacking perhaps was the chemistry between the two male two suitors, and Roxane. It improved towards the end, and this might be some opening night nerves, but it felt like actor’s were really focused on their lines, and staging at times instead of making the emotional connection with their scene partners. Carbon played by David Hamilton sold us however on his conviction and lust for Roxane.
Also the stage again is multi-tiered wood. At times, with stomping and creaking we feel like we’re on a large ship, and not in a bakery or garden. But these are all minor nits, and again City Lights showcases inventive, exciting community theater with plenty of heart. Frank Langella’s Cyrano is romantic, playful, and tragic. But most importantly, it’s definitely a recommended theater experience.
Frank Langella’s Cyrano
An Adaptation of Edmond Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac
City Lights Theater Company
3.5 out of 5 stars
Directed by Kit Wilder
Starring Joshua Marx, Sarah Griner, Jeff Kramer
2 hours 30 minutes, one intermission
Through April 18, 2010
- City Lights throws great opening gala’s with food once again provided by Eulipia following the performance.
- According to director Kit Wilder, Cyrano typically requires no fewer than forty actors, playing more than seventy parts; “it is a rich, sumptuous, hedonistic affair — and one that puts to the test the stamina of even the most dedicated actors and theatergoers.” The scope caused some doubt until they remembered Frank Langella’s adaptation, a shorter, more efficient, more modern version.
- “Spring Fling” – CLTC spring fundraiser takes place Friday, April 23, 2010 6:30 pm – Midnight; entertainment by ComedySportz, buffet by E&O Trading Company, music and dancing by The Peelers, $50 per person
- Coming next: Second Weekend in September (May 21 – June 20), Rent (July 22 – August 29)
- City Lights 2010-2011 Season, “Bringing Sexy Back”: First Day of School, Abraham Lilncoln’s Big Gay Dance Party, Compleat Female Stage Beauty, Equus, Distracted, TBA