by CHRISTINE SARKES SASSEVILLE
Cyrano, at the Park Square Theatre, offers swoon-inducing romance and swashbuckling action in this modern adaptation by Michael Hollinger. J C Cutler in the title role and Emily Gunyou Halaas, as Cyrano’s love interest Roxane, deliver poignant and tender performances that had many audience members sniffling during several romantic exchanges. The small cast takes on multiple roles, with Craig Johnson (Desiree/Montfleury) providing comic relief as Roxanne’s clueless nanny. Hollinger translated Edmond Rostand’s original 1897 play, Cyrano de Bergerac, and adapted it for modern audiences. Cyrano premiered in 2011 at the Folger Theatre in Washington D.C., earning seven Helen Hayes Award nominations.
The play opens in the 17th century as a play-within-a-play at a Parisian theater, where we meet Cyrano, his friends and comrades in the Gascony Guard, and Christian de Neuvillette (Sam Bardwell as the handsome, hapless and tongue-tied rival for Roxane’s affection). We discover that Cyrano is a charasmatic leader and skilled swordsman with a gift for self-mockery, song, poetry and romance. Unfortunately, he is burdened with an unattractive and oversized nose, which makes him a target of scorn and, as he believes, dooms him to a life of lonely, unrequited love for his beautiful, intellectual cousin Roxane. Cyrano and Christian hatch a plan that allows Christian to woo Roxane with Cyrano’s poetry and romantic guidance. Roxane falls in love with Christian, using Cyrano’s words, and Cyrano’s heart is broken as he watches in the shadows. Meanwhile, there are sword fights with other romantic rivals and noblemen, a battle at the front lines of the war with Spain and poignant interactions between Roxane and Cyrano as he hides his true feelings and identity as her secret lover. Ultimately, the play acts as a allegory of inward and outward beauty and answers the question of whether love can survive beyond superficial, physical limitations.
Cyrano, by Edmond Rostand, translated by Michael Hollinger, adapted by Michael Hollinger and Aaron Posner. Directed by Joe Chvala. Now through April 6 at Park Square Theatre, Historic Hamm Building, 20 W. 7th Place, Saint Paul, MN 55102. Tickets: $38 and $58 (discounts are available for seniors, those under age 30, and groups) by phone: 651.291.7005 or online at www.parksquaretheatre.org.