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Cyrano
Mother Road Theatre Company

Also see Rob's review of The Member of the Wedding


Christopher Holloway
Cyrano is the play that asks the question: What's harder, singlehandedly defeating a hundred men in a swordfight, or telling the woman you love that you love her? Edmond Rostand's Cyrano is still popular after more than a century, I think, not because of the wit, the swordplay, or the really big nose, but because it's one of the all-time great unrequited love stories. Poor Cyrano, cursed by genetics with a monstrous proboscis but blessed with wondrous eloquence, is on the one hand an egomaniac and on the other a diffident swain. The heart can make a coward of even the bravest soul.

Mother Road's presentation of Cyrano is a recent adaptation by Michael Hollinger and Aaron Posner from Hollinger's translation of the Rostand classic. It cuts the five-act play down to two hours (just as the title has been shortened from Cyrano de Bergerac), and throws in some contemporary colloquialisms even though the setting is still 17th century France. Most of it works, and the story speeds along, but I still was bored by a scene in which soldiers are encamped waiting for a battle to start.

Cyrano de Bergerac was a real person, a French soldier and playwright who died in 1655 at age 36. He did have a famously big nose, but it's assumed that the Cyrano that Rostand created is otherwise fictional. He has become one of the great characters of fiction from any age. In Rostand's play, Cyrano is a great swordsman, poet, and wit, but because of the nose problem, he does not allow himself to believe that he can ever be loved—specifically by his second cousin Roxane, who is the great and enduring love of his life. Roxane falls for the handsome soldier Christian, who has it made in the looks department but leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to passionate grandiloquence. Roxane wants it all, though, looks and brains, so Cyrano surreptitiously provides the latter. The scene under Roxane's balcony is one of the most famous pieces of theatrical writing ever.

This production is directed snappily by Staci Robbins. The Tricklock Performance Lab is bare bones, and Ms. Robbins has devised a clever set to allow quick scene changes in a place with few resources. The costumes by Kathy Pritt-Price and Barbara Brice and props by Nina Dorrance are excellent. This is surely the only play where "The Nose" gets a credit, and the prosthesis created by Michael Blaisdell is a little too outrageously protuberant, but does get laughs in a Daffy Duck kind of way.

The acting is almost uniformly fine. The secondary roles, many of them doubled, are more than ably filled by Micah Linford, Brian Haney, Kelly O'Keefe, Mark Hisler, Matthew Van Wettering, and Patricia Thompson, and I wish I could have seen more of all of them. Nicholas Ballas has the perfect bearing and voice for the aristocrat De Guiche, who also woos Roxane despite being a married man. Robin Holloway is a suitably good-looking Christian and a good actor too. Katie Becker Colón is an excellent Roxane, a character whom I find at times irritating and at times warm.

The only actor I had a problem with, and unfortunately he's in the lead role, is Christopher Holloway (no relation to Robin—what are the odds that in a cast of ten there would be two Holloways?). We know from the name "de Bergerac" that Cyrano is of aristocratic origin, even though he's serving as a soldier and not an officer, and his temperament and speech are of the privileged class. But Mr. Holloway, who was imported from Chicago for this production, plays him like a proletarian. I didn't get anything majestic out of his performance. Instead, I kept feeling that he just got back from the bowling alley. Like Bill Murray doing Cyrano. Maybe this is "the Chicago school of acting." Hemingway-style, not Henry James. There wasn't anything at all bad about the performance, but it lacked—dare I say —-panache. ("Panache" is an important word in this play. Literally "a plume in a hat or helmet," the metaphoric meaning of panache was introduced into English by this play.) Consequently, at the end, I wasn't very torn up. However, the woman sitting next to me was crying audibly, so maybe it's just me.

Nevertheless, I would recommend seeing this show. Cyrano is one of the canonical plays of the theater, it's clever and funny and heartbreaking, and it doesn't come around that often.

Cyrano, the play by Edmond Rostand as translated by Michael Hollinger and adapted by Michael Hollinger and Aaron Posner, is being presented by the Mother Road Theatre Company through November 9, 2014. Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 8:00, Sundays at 2:00. At the Tricklock Performance Laboratory, 110 Gold Ave SW, Albuquerque, 87102. For more info, see www.motherroad.org.


Photo: John Maio Photography


--Dean Yannias



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