It has been a grim couple of days over here at the Visitorium, kids. Hits are way down, I have MAJOR pancake troubles looming, and for the last few days the only thing keeping me alive (possibly literally) is old comic books. So it was nice to be able to give comix a break from justifying my existence and letting theatre do the job, with tonight’s much-anticipated premiere of Plosive Productions‘ new rendition of CYRANO DE BERGERAC, courtesy of Director/translator David Whiteley.
Taking place on an arcing, multi-level poetry-bedecked set from designer Nancy Solman (who also handled the flippin’ gorgeous costumes for the show), Edmond Rostand’s classic tells the comic-tragic tale of Hercule Savinien de Cyrano de Bergerac, a savage swordsman in the King’s guard of 17th century France possessed of a flair for verse, passion for life, and an enormous god-damned nose. Cyrano (played with perfectly heroic gusto by the amazing Richard Gelinas, in a defining performance) has only one weak spot, and that’s his hidden, unrequited love for his beautiful cousin Roxane, played by the luminous Elise Gauthier (who is MUCH shorter without the stilts). And before you start kvetching, don’t worry…it was France in the 17th century, it was TOTALLY cool to crush on your cousin, I’m sure. It’s all good, so let’s move on, right?
Right. After a few scrapes and tussles to get the audiences blood pumping (including a wicked cool rhymed-verse swordfight with the boasting dandy Valvert ; Smooth Tim Oberholzer in a smashing villainous turn), Cyrano gets the bad news…his beloved Roxane is enamoured of a fair-faced dope in his brigade, newly arrived Christian (Warren Bain, hitting great comedic notes) who has the ‘hair of a hero’. Okay, so Roxane is coming off a little shallow here, but she DOES insist that Christian must have the wit to back up his looks, or it’s off. So Cyrano does what he must, and lends his razor-wit and heartfelt longing to Christian, to help him woo the woman they both love. It culminates at the halfway point in the famous balcony scene (that for my money puts the one in ROMEO AND JULIET to shame), when Cyrano puts it all on the line, pouring his heart out to Roxane in a scene that is guaranteed to make all but he hardest of hearts swoon. It’s a showstopper, where both Gelinas and Gauthier really bring the characters to another level (Gauthier’s performance is HEARTBREAKING), and I happily admit I’m madly in love with their rendition of that scene. It’s worth the price of admission by itself.
Of course, there’s more than just our star-crossed lovers to gawk at…Stewart Matthews excels as Cyrano’s put-upon best pal Le Bret, literally throwing himself into the role at times. Scott Humphrey has a dandy few scenes as the visiting D’artagnan, 4th Musketeer and all that, and the rest of the supporting cast is an amazing grocery list of scene-stealers: Katie Bunting, Garret Quirk, Chris Ralph, Robin Guy, Zach Counsil, Tim Oberholzer and Chris McCleod (who also doubled as the fight choreographer, and did a bloody amazing job of it, too).
Whiteley’s newly rhymed translation works, and at many times was so subtle as to be almost invisible to the ear (when it wasn’t, it never got too distracting, and more often than not was a great boon to the goings-on). I was hoping for a LITTLE more from the sound and lights, especially during the key ‘Siege of Arras’ scene, but the cool cats onstage more than made up for any imagined shortcomings I may have been dreaming up. The whole thing is a rousing, raucous joy, and it’s honestly hard not to smile during the bulk of the action (except, you know, for the sad bits). Plosive’s CYRANO does indeed have Panache, kids…lyrical, fun, feisty, swashbuckling, all that good stuff. And now that I’m in between theatre outings, I have to dash. Comic books to read and all that. Peace, love, soul and panache,
The Visitor (and Winston)
PS: Props to Zach Counsil, not only for nearly cracking up the entire cast with a single line, but for his work on Cyrano’s nose. Man, that’s an ugly honker. Nicely done.