“Love is a many splenored thing” was a song that I remember growing up in the 50’s. I also grew up wanting to be as daring and romantic as Edmond Rostand’s “Cyrano de Bergerac after watching the brilliant portrayal of this “hero” by Jose Ferrer. In fact in all my speech and drama classes in high school and in college, I used speeches from this fabulous text to show my abilities on the stage. When it was announced that Chicago Shakespeare was going to have this play on it’s schedule, goose bumps were my response and today, after seeing this production, the same goose bumps came back to me as this is a solid production of a classic story.
Directed by Penny Metropulos in The Courtyard stage area on a handsome and practical set by genius Kevin Depinet, it is striking in every detail, but those sitting in the first few rows, due to the use of the aisles do have moments when they are blocked of having full vision of the fabulous cast. This is why this is not a four star ( or even five star rating). The costumes (Susan E. Mickey) and Jesse Klug’s lighting along with the pure sound (James Savage), the wigs ( and wow, are there wigs- Melissa Veal) and the music composed by Alaric Jans are part of what makes this three plus hours of magic appear much shorter in time. Yes, time does fly when you are having fun!.
What truly makes this a show that I would suggest you see, no matter what is the cast of players, many of whom we see on a regular basis at Chicago Shakespeare, others on other area stages and a few newcomers. Cyrano is a difficult part to play as he is onstage almost the entire play, wearing a larger nose ( and when the audience is as close as it gets at CST, it has to be almost perfect to not have a “fake” look. For this role, they have brought back the incredible Harry Groener, and watching him on stage is worth the price of the ticket alone. For those of you who are unaware of te story that Rostand tells ( this version is adapted by Anthony Burgess, who deserves credit for his part in bringing this from book to stage). Cyrano is a soldier, a nobleman who has a rather large, deformed nose. He is a poet and writer as well as a strong swordsman as he serves his country’s needs. He has always been a hopeful Romantic and deeply in love with his “cousin” Roxane ( the delightful and playful Julie Jesneck), but has always felt that because of his looks, he could never be her mate.
Roxane, is also in love, with a new member of the army ,Christian ( deftly handled by Nick Dillenburg), who also loves Roxane, but has difficulty in saying what is in his heart and on his mind. Roxane , being a “romantic” herself, desires that he woo her with letters of romance, but he cannot. Cyrano seizes this opportunity to be Christian’s spokesperson, his heart and soul and as he does so, Roxane’s love grows even deeper. So deep, in fact, that in the second act, after she has married Christian, she tells him that she would still love him even if he were not beautiful. This is a story about love an dthe meaning of love- not just affection or wanting of the other, but feeling for each other and willing to make sacrifices for the other.
While the story sounds short and sweet, it takes awhile to get into each of the personalities as they are written and how they relate to one another. The surrounding characters are all perfect for bringing out the true nature of the man, Cyrano, who is mostly misunderstood by those around him as they fear what might take place should they even so much at look at his nose. It is his sould and his heart which is of the greatest importance in this truest of love stories and one that should be on the school recommended lit, but alas, has never been ( to my knowledge). There are only a few flaws that I can see with this production. Other than the actors blocking some views in the first few rows, I felt that the pastry chef, played by Ross Lehman was a bit to comical a character and do not recall him having the little “ditty songs” that this production has. The fight scenes were solid(Rick Sordelet) and thecast solid ( as I said before). Aloysius Gigl, Sean Fortunato, Wendy Robie, Michael Doonan, Tyler Rich, Ryan Hallahan, Rosa Lynn Reinemann, Richard Baird, William Dick, Kenton Gott, Brendan Marshall-Rashid, Terrence Mosley,Ray Chapman, Erika Haaland, Sra Griffin, Kevin Cox, Dave Belden, Elliott Delman, Regina Leslie, Aaron Latterell and Ryan Bourque. Many of these ensemble members play several roles making the cast seem even larger than its numbers. A tip of the hat to each and every one of you for a job well done!
“Cryano de Bergerac” will continue at Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier through November 10th with performances as follows:
Wednesdays at 1 and 7:30 p.m.
Fridays at 7:30 p.m.
Saturdays at 3 and 8 p.m.
Sundays at 2 p.m.
6:30 Sunday performances onOctober 27th November 3rd
Tickets range from $48-$78 and can be purchased at the box office, by phone at 312-595-5600 or online at www.chicagoshakes.com
Patrons under 35 can purchase special rates of $20 use the code CST for $20
Discount parking is available as well- save 40% and of course Navy Pier is easy to reach using public transportation and their free trolley.
To go along with this production there are many pre and post groups/discussions available ( check out website)
To see what others are saying visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “Cyrano de Bergerac”