Reviewed by Victor Gluck
Presented by The Aquila Theatre Company at the Clark Studio, 70 Lincoln Center Plaza at W. 65th Street, NYC, Aug. 20-Sept. 17.
Using commedia dell'arte, director Robert Richmond has created a novel way to present that old chestnut, Rostand's "Cyrano de Bergerac." This swashbuckling romance of 17th century France, as colorful as any Renaissance story, proves to be perfect material for this swirling style. Using puppets, mime, music, and movement, the Aquila Theatre Company's production is simply magical as it reinvents a too-familiar play normally staged in traditional fashion.
The commedia dell'arte context is established at the outset with a wagon being brought on stage, which is then used in multiple ways, serving as the stage for the first act play-within-the-play, Ragueneau's bakery counter, etc. Using puppets allows Richmond to stage "Cyrano" with only eight actors and yet create a sense of tumultuous crowds. Peter Meineck's lighting design, which alternately floods the stage with primary colors, brilliantly creates the visual space. Richmond's new adaptation is colloquial, clear, and incorporates some witty topical references.
Playing the title role, Anthony Cochrane (who also composed the haunting music) gives a bravura performance, pulling out all the stops. His Cyrano is bigger than life and always commands the stage. With the expert assistance of Lisa Carter's three-dimensional Roxanne, his death scene in the final act evoked audible sobs from the audience. Both performances deepen as the play moves to its tragic denouement.
They are ably supported by Daniel Rappaport's comic Ragueneau, Jennie Israel as Roxanne's duenna (played with an amusing American Southern accent), Sean Fri's arrogant De Guiche, Noah Trepanier's histrionic Mountfluery, and William Kwapy's serious Le Bret. Alvaro Heinig made the handsome Christian intense, but no more interesting than this superficial character usually is.