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play review: 'Cyrano'

Cyrano

Cyrano -

Cyrano (Spencer Hamp) duels Vicomte de Valvert (Colton Sullivan) in the theater while composing a ballad about their fight as Roxane (Hannah Ruwe) looks on.

Photo by Anastasia Stepankowsky

Word play and heartstring plucks abound

By Samantha Leeds The Daily

 

There may be 50 ways to leave your lover, but there are just as many ways, or more, to woo her.

An eloquent wordsmith, formidable swordsman, and man of panache, Cyrano de Bergerac seems to have everything it takes to make any woman swoon. 

Except for one fatal flaw: The only thing bigger than the protagonist in the Undergraduate Theater Society’s (UTS) production of “Cyrano” is his preposterously large … nose. 

Directed by Ben Phillips, the play witnesses Cyrano, a nobleman in the French army, (Spencer Hamp) in his efforts to help the new cadet in town, Christian de Neuvillette (a hapless Josh Langager), woo the woman they’re both in love with.

Cyrano de Bergerac lived in France during the 1600s. The play, which playwright Edmond Rostand based loosely on de Bergerac’s life, debuted in 1897.

The UTS cast had a legacy to uphold. Their adaptation maintains the original script’s historical rhyming couplets, but keeps the play relevant, throwing in more modern jokes. The resulting production is magnificently humorous and tragic.

It adeptly balances outlandish characters, like the haughty Comte de Guiche (Nathan Wornian), with moments of human insecurity, like Cyrano’s disbelief that anyone could love him because of his nose. This juggling act keeps the audience engaged, wondering which zany or profound development waits around the corner.

Roxane (Hannah Ruwe), whose beauty is matched only by her intellect, falls for Christian’s looks and, more importantly, the idea that he is a man of substance. Christian is Cyrano’s foil — handsome, but lacking in intellect. Together, the two men make the perfect team.

Though the entire cast excelled in their roles, the sheer number of actors was often overwhelming. This left the audience unsure where to focus its attention.

The simple functionality of the set counteracted this shortcoming. The balcony and staircase clarified the hierarchy of power among the characters, while the open center stage allowed actors to roam around in scenes with fewer people.

The most engaging scenes featured Cyrano interacting with his close friends Le Bret (Sylvia Kowalski) and Roxane. These moments highlighted character development, and made more hectic scenes seem genuine. They also showcased individuals such as a hilarious Kevin Lin as the heavily-accented French baker and poet, Ragueneau.

The role of the swashbuckling cadet with the impressive schnoz has enough lines to keep a lesser actor merely reciting his character, but Hamp rose to the occasion, and went far beyond in his role as Cyrano.

Everything from his stance to his delivery of self-deprecating one-liners wooed the audience, along with the play’s characters. He created a larger-than-life persona that remained relatable and sympathetic.

One scene in particular, wherein Cyrano uses a form of charades to prompt Christian’s profession of love to Roxane, teems with hilarious miscommunications. It showcases Hamp’s success with both physical humor and internal vulnerability.

It is tempting to give this play a modern twist, as the 1987 film adaptation, “Roxanne,” starring Steve Martin did. Phillips made the right choice in keeping the original setting: Paris circa 1640. Though it was occasionally a struggle to keep up with the word play and Ragueneau’s French accent, it was worth it, if for no other reason than the thrillingly choreographed sword fighting.

Cyrano’s love for Roxane is beautiful in all of its saccharine glory and impressive in its sheer endurance. With unparalleled sincerity, Hamp embodies the air of a man resigned to a life of unrequited love. The true feat, however, was the care every cast member showed for his or her character. There was such sincerity in the room that the audience had a tough time saying goodbye.

“Cyrano” runs through March 10 in Hutchinson Hall.

The verdict: Between laughter and tears “Cyrano” retells an age-old story to great effect.

Reach reporter Samantha Leeds at arts@dailyuw.com. Twitter: @SamanthaJLeeds

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