No production of Cyrano de Bergerac is worth a minute of anyone's time unless the title character is portrayed by a top-drawer actor. Fortunately, "bravura" barely begins to describe Tony Award winner Douglas Hodge's portrayal of the large-nosed character in the Roundabout Theatre Company's scintillating revival of Edmond Rostand's romance at the American Airlines Theatre.
Hodge clutches the audience in his fist from the moment he charges in from one of the auditorium's doors and proceeds to bellow his presence from other parts of the theater to mock ham actor Montfleury (Andy Grotelueschen) and then goes on to taunt anyone on stage who dares to mention his prominent proboscis: "It's a cape, a promontory — what am I saying? — a peninsula," he fires off in Ranjit Bolt's lively translation.
Hodge's Cyrano is as dexterous with his tongue as his sword, but he finds himself lost for words when faced with the prospect of declaring love for his beautiful cousin Roxane (Clemence Poesy). Ultimately, he decides his best fall-back position is composing love letters for handsome, young soldier Christian (Kyle Soller), whom she has fallen for – and who is equally enamored of her – but who is no match for Cyrano in the eloquence department.
Bolt's neatly rhymed couplets could provide a challenge for a lesser cast, but Poesy is purely poetical -- even when expressing Roxane's prolonged grief late in the play. (And she looks consistently lovely in Soutra Gilmour's period costumes.)
Indeed, the entire troupe, under the direction of Jamie Lloyd, provides fine support: Soller exhibits the callow charm Christian requires; Patrick Page lends the aristocratic Comte de Guiche the necessary cowardly flamboyance; Max Baker is outstanding as Cyrano's gruffly loyal pal Le Bret; and Bill Buell proves nicely sanguine as kind-hearted chef Ragueneau.
Throughout the piece, Hodge continues invigorating the action -- right through to the final scene where the mortally wounded Cyrano arrives to see Roxane for a final visit. Just for these heartbreaking moments of Rostand's play, as it becomes crystal clear that three people have unwittingly ruined their lives by engaging in their ultimately destructive letter-writing stratagem, Hodge deserves another Tony Award.
As it happens, one of the resourceful Lloyd's bracing notions is frequently posing Cyrano's colleagues together for cheerful solidarity. So it's only fitting that at the fade-out, patrons will also want to stand in solidarity for Hodge and his compatriots.
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