Cyrano de Bergerac
Also see John's review of The North China Lover
The performances around Groener's Cyrano are a mixed bag. That's not so severe a problem given that Groener is speaking throughout at least half the play, I'd guess. Groener's best supporting players are Ross Lehman as the hapless baker Ragueneau and Sean Fortunato as his steadfast friend Le Bret. Aloysius Gigl makes a believably malevolent villain as the Count de Guiche. The other two leads, though, are problematic. As Christian, the new cadet in love with Roxane but too inarticulate to win her without the help of poet Cyrano, Nick Dillenburg is likable enougha decent guy who ultimately wants to do the right thingbut as directed by Penny Metropulos, Dillenburg doesn't add anything unexpected to the role. Jesneck's Roxane, at least until the final scene, comes off as self-centered and shallow. Her only desire in a man, beyond sex appeal, is his ability to tell her in a myriad of ways how he loves her. Ms. Jesneck does show a transformation and increased maturity in the final scene, but before that, we don't feel she's good enough for Cyrano.
Metropulos is directing the 1970 translation by Anthony Burgess and it's a good one. Burgess managed to not only write in verse, as per the original 1897 French text by Edmond Rostand, but also maintains the florid feel of the original with an accessible, contemporary sensibility. The performances are frequently quite funny in the hands of this cast, and served up with great production design. Kevin Depinet's set includes rustic wooden stairways and towers, lit beautifully by Jesse Klug. Klug's lighting the for the act four battle scenein which the set is bathed in a red suggestive of both dawn and the bloodshed of the fatal battle soon to comeis stunning. Susan E. Mickey dresses the cast in glorious costumes of 17th century France, topped with some marvelous wigs and makeup by Melissa Veal. There are laughs, romance and fighting (directed by Rick Sordelet), making a complete package of onstage spectacle.
For some, this Cyrano may be too much of these good things, though. It seems Metropulos has chosen not to cut the textor if she has, it's cut by much less than it could have been. The show runs about three hours and ten minutes, including one fifteen-minute intermission. The Roundabout's New York revival a few years ago was, by comparison, a good half-hour shorter. Purists may approveit gives the opportunity to hear lots and lots of the poetic speeches Rostand wrote for Cyrano, and Groener's energy never flags in delivering them. Those simply interested in following the plot and the swashbuckling may find the production unnecessarily overlong. If seeing a big, expertly done performance of the complete Cyrano text is something you crave, though, this one qualifies.
Cyrano de Bergerac will play through November 10, 2013, at Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Navy Pier, Chicago. For reservations, visit www.chicagoshakes.com or call 312-595-5600.