Streamlined ‘Cyrano’ at WSU’s Hilberry
By Robert Delaney
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The nose is just as long, but the play is shorter, in “Frank Langella’s Cyrano,” the latest production at Wayne State’s Hilberry Theatre.
Edmond Rostand’s “Cyrano de Bergerac,” an 1890s play about a real 17th-century French poet and swordsman, has seen many stage productions in several English translations, as well as several motion picture adaptations – notably the one that starred Jose Ferrer in the title role.
The tragic tale of the ugly poet with the beautiful words and his love for the fair Roxane continues to move audiences today.
After having played the lead several times in one of those English translations, actor Frank Langella decided the play would be more effective if a number of characters and a lot of dialogue were cut out of it. So, Langella undertook to do the trimming himself, hence his name in the title.
The result is a two-act play with a running time more in line with most other modern theater offerings, but with some of the richness of the original missing. Frankly, I was happy with the old way of doing it, but Langella’s abridgment has undoubted appeal.
Director Blair Anderson has directed a cast of grad-student actors in bringing this adaptation to local audiences. As Cyrano, David Toomey handles both the verbal sparring and swordplay with style and flair. Sara Hymes gives a fine portrayal as Roxane, love interest of both Cyrano and of the young and handsome Christian. Topher Payne gives us a Christian not only lacking in poetry but of much personality of any kind. Christopher Ellis is appropriately haughty as De Guiche.
David Sterritt’s swordfighting choreography is quite impressive. Also to be commended is Donna Buckley’s costume design work. Unfortunately, Greg Loftus’ scenic design doesn’t contribute much to this production, and Brian M. Scruggs’ lighting design leaves it somewhat difficult to see. When plays are done about eras when large hats were in style, it would be nice to have some light on the players’ faces.
Still, any production of “Cyrano” with a good Cyrano and good swordfighting can be fun to see.
SHOW DETAILS: “Frank Langella’s Cyrano” continues in rotating repertory through March 10 at the Hilberry Theatre, at Cass and West Hancock on the WSU campus in Detroit’s Midtown area. For performance and ticket information, call the WSU Theatre box office 313-577-2972 or go to www.wsushows.com.
Reprinted with permission of the New Monitor, Feb. 2, 2012