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Friday, November 02, 2007

 

ModFab On...Cyrano de Bergerac

Cyrano de Bergerac
Where: Richard Rodgers Theatre, Broadway, NYC
Director: David Leveaux
Playwright: Edmund Rostand (adap. Anthony Burgess)
Performers: Kevin Kline, Jennifer Garner, Daniel Sunjata, Euan Morton, Chris Sarandon
Opens: November 1
Visit: IBDB, Ticketmaster

To his credit -- and let's give credit where credit is due -- Kevin Kline is giving the least hammy stage performance of his life right now in Cyrano de Bergerac. Of course, that's like saying Paris Hilton's recent minidress is her least whorish. But Kline has, for what it's worth, brought down the decibel level of his stage shtick, which now floats somewhere near Nathan Lane-ian proportions...even if it is still peppered with cheap applause tricks and an almost pathological need to stand center stage.

No, in this Cyrano, the ham-fisting has been left to Tony nominee Daniel Sunjata (Take Me Out) who, as the dashing romantic dunderhead Christian, woos the lovely Roxane (Alias' Jennifer Garner) using Cyrano's poetic words. And that's too bad, because it's a sour note in David Leveaux's gorgeous (if uneven) revival of Rostand's classic comedy of sublimation.

There's a dynamic necessary in Cyrano's tale, a love triangle that requires laughs and tears of its players and its audience....a dramedy, if you will, written centuries before that term was invented. Tonal shifts occur with lightning speed, the text veering from poetic to mundane to overblown, often in a single monologue. While Leveaux and company manage most of the hairpin turns well, it become all the more noticeable (and lamentable) when they do not. "Rushed", "sloppy" and "incomplete" are adjectives that come to mind when remembering its most glaring weak moments.

But let's focus on what does work...starting with Tom Pye's breathtaking set, a ravishingly romantic construction that features both Spanish and French period touches. Its earthy, swooning lyricism is easily the best design in years (perhaps the best since his last Broadway design, for 2004's Fiddler on the Roof). The appropriately fussy costumes by Gregory Gale (Urinetown) use color and detail with great sophistication.

Among the performers not named Kline or Sunjata, I was most impressed by Garner, whose pre-Alias theatrical roots have helped her make a respectable pass as a girl overly eroticized by vocabulary. Euan Morton (Taboo) also makes an impression as one of Cyrano's fellow soldiers; his drunken exposition gives all the relevant backstory to the audience with panache.

But this is Kline's show, as his multiple curtain-calls make clear. He is the name the surburban matrons have come to see, and his winking performance will not fail to titillate them. If the pirate of penzance isn't strutting like a garish peacock this time out, that will at most be a slight disappointment. As long as he can orate, swash, and buckle, Cyrano will be a perfectly serviceable crowd-pleaser for the throngs.

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