The Guthrie Theater is continuing their commitment to telling stories that hark back years ago but still have themes that are applicable to even today's society. That is the case with their new production, Cyrano de Bergerac. The comedic show originally premiered in 1897 and the audience applauded for over an hour after the final curtain from the cast. The story of inner beauty was even the basis of inspiration for the 1987 film Roxanne, starring Steve Martin.
This particular adaptation was even rewritten by Guthrie Artistic Director Joseph Haj. Haj used his working knowledge of French and two different English translations to pen a completely new version. And on top of that, he directed this production as well.
Cyrano de Bergerac is about Cyrano who is truly the whole package from being an established playwright, a distinct poet and a daring swordsman. However there is one thing that constantly holds him back and that is his grotesquely large nose. The nose causes him such self-doubt that he stands in his way of declaring his love for Roxane. However he soon discovers that Roxane has fallen in love with the young and handsome Christian. Despite his looks, Christian does not have the same eloquent way with words as Cyrano does. Cyrano decides to him under his wing and combined they create a perfect package of looks and brains. But as all great comedies...things start to unravel.
The true star of this production is the stunning technical elements. It’s important to note that I am continually impressed more and more with the sets that the Guthrie builds and the one that McKay Coble, scenic designer, created is no exception to that. . Not only was the two story visually magnificent but also incredibly versatile. Some walls easily turned into blinds that peeked inside Roxane’s house while other walls slid across the stage to form various rooms and windows popped out to create chairs and tables. Each set piece was beautifully decorated with stunning floral colors and arrangements.
The costumes are exquisitely beautiful and created by costume designer Jan Chambers. This was by far the largest cast I’ve ever seen on the McGuire Proscenium stage. Since many of these performers were playing multiple actors, there was a plethora of costumes on stage from time to time and each one was wonderfully constructed.
I found the plot to have a rough beginning with a slightly slower pace. I truly was a little confused and a bit lost at the start of the play. One thing to note is that this is not a reflection of the actors performances as they truly were right on the nose in terms of humor. This romantic comedy has phenomenal performances especially by the lead Cyrano de Bergerac, played by Jay O. Sanders.
Sanders’s ability to transform to various forms of comedy throughout the entire production is awe-inspiring. From dry humor, to sarcastic wit, earning laughs with just a look to the audience and even physical comedy, Sanders’s performance transcends comedic timing. Other highlights include the poised and elegant Jennie Greenberry as Roxane and Robert Lenzi’s who makes awkward the new charming as Christian.
Overall Cyrano de Bergerac gives audiences an entertaining evening although it’s pacing failed to hook me right in the beginning of the show. Due to its longer introduction, it took me longer than usual to become invested in the plot and characters.
Cyrano de Bergerac is playing at the Guthrie Theater now through May 5.