Shaw Festival 2022 / Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand, translated and adapted by Kate Hennig, directed by Chris Abraham, Royal George Theater, Mar. 20 to May 8. Tickets available here.
Cyrano de Bergerac at the Shaw Festival is a remount of the highly regarded 2019 production. When I went back and read the review I wrote then (which is readily available via search on this website), I could just write “Ditto” for 2022. Yes, it would be the shortest critique in history, but I do feel, generally , the same way about the production as I did in 2019.
I do, in fact, love most of it, and would happily send my friends and relations to see this remount. What I don’t like about it, however, I really, really don’t like, and while this aspect blights the production a tad, it’s a blip on the landscape in regard to what’s good about the theater experience as a whole.
What follows is a short commentary on the good, the bad and the ugly of this Cyrano (albeit, mostly good).
The gutsy thing of setting the production in the tiny Royal George Theater still works, and director Chris Abraham uses the whole theater – the side aisles and the back – in a sort of surround sound. This remount seemed more chaotic and noisy than I remember, but that just adds vitality to the mix.
Kate Hennig’s adapted script still works marvelously well. She dumped the alexandrine rhyming couplets for colloquial prose that is smart and sassy.
I don’t know how it’s possible, but Tom Rooney’s Cyrano has grown in character portrayal, which means the actor has gone beyond perfection. In fact, so nuanced is his performance that Cyrano actually started to irritate me – his self-victimization – and that’s never happened before in any production I’ve seen. Now that’s acting!
The gender-bending cast of 14 actors has just three changes from 2019 (which says something about the staying power of the Shaw ensemble). The biggest switch is Nafeesa Monroe as Le Bret instead of Tanya Jacobs. She may be a tad young, but she does a lively job, as do Katherine Gauthier in her four roles, and Marie Mahaba with her two.
Julie Fox’s two-tiered set and period costumes are still a marvel, as is Kimberly Purtell’s gorgeous misty lighting. Thomas Ryder Payne (who seems to be everywhere these days) has compiled a cinematic score of original music and sound design that fits the narrative like hand to glove. In other words, theatrical values are first-rate.
I still love Sharry Flett’s droll and ironic take as Roxanne’s companion. Kyle Blair’s Ragueneau is still sweet, Jeff Irving’s Christian seems to have a more manly bite, while Patrick Galligan as De Guiche is still one nasty sardonic bastard. I would say all of these characters are more defined this time round.
And alas, we come to Roxanne, and I still think that Deborah Hay is woefully miscast. She is a strong actress on stage (and I’ve loved her past performances at both Shaw and Stratford), so her breathless précieuse seems both too old and too fake. She’s acting at and not acting from, and it just doesn’t work.
Finally, if you didn’t catch this production in 2019, now’s the time. If you did see it then, it deserves a second visit, for no better reason than Tom Rooney’s brilliant Cyrano. He is unforgettable.
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