Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Cyrano De Bergerac

I was a little nervous about "Cyrano de Bergerac," now playing on Broadway at the Richard Rodgers Theatre.

I was afraid that the dialogue would be antiquated and I'd have a hard time understanding what was going on. While I vaguely remember reading an easy version of Edmond Rostand's verse play in high school French class, I didn't remember very much about the plot.

Well, I shouldn't have worried. While it took me a few minutes to acclimate myself to the rhythms of the language, I was soon swept up in the story of war and sacrifice and unrequited love. Aided by Gregory Gale's lavish costumes and Tom Pye's impressive set, this is how a classic should be brought to life. I thought it was exciting and poignant and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Kevin Kline, prominent facial feature and all, is wonderful as Cyrano, equally adept with a pointed sword and a pointed phrase. He is the man for whom the word panache was invented, signifying a combination of flamboyance and courage. This was also the first time I'd seen swordplay on stage, and it was thrilling to watch. I can't believe how many hours they must have practiced to get it just right.

While I know Jennifer Garner is getting some very mixed reviews, I thought she was kind of appealing as the youthful and headstrong Roxane, who doesn't realize that her cousin Cyrano is in love with her. And I liked Daniel Sunjata as the less-polished, tongue-tied Christian, who needs Cyrano's help in proclaiming his love for Roxane.

But Kevin Kline is clearly the center of attention. I've seen many of his movies, but this was the first time I'd seen him on stage. One of the things that I like to do is watch the "star" when he or she doesn't have anything to say, and is just standing off to the side.

Early on, there's a point where he has to do just that. While I was too far away to really get a good look at his face, I thought, here's this movie star, this Oscar winner, and yet, he doesn't have to be the focus of attention every second. He's just standing off to the side as part of the company while someone else is speaking. Here's an actor who can blend into the background as well as step into the limelight.

But when the attention is on him, as it is in the play's final moments, he is riveting to watch. His heartfelt, sad, emotional turn at the end of the play had me in tears. This is a Cyrano that I will always remember.

In addition to seeing Kevin Kline on stage for the first time, it was also a day of other firsts for me.

It was my first time in the Richard Rodgers Theatre, and while the leg room left a lot to be desired, I loved walking along the corridor and looking at framed mementoes to some of Rodgers and Hammerstein's most famous works, including "South Pacific" and "State Fair."

To make the day even more special, two wonderful friends treated me to lunch at Angus McIndoe's and my first drink at legendary theater hangout Sardi's, known for the caricatures of Broadway celebrities that line the walls. It's a day on the Great White Way that I will never forget.

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