Park Square's oversized 'Cyrano' ably mixes comedy and tragedy

  • Article by: LISA BROCK , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 24, 2014 - 10:55 PM

REVIEW: Park Square’s “Cyrano,” directed by Joe Chvala, puts the play’s big emotions at center stage.

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Emily Gunyou Halaas and J.C. Cutler in “Cyrano” at Park Square Theatre. Photo Credit: Petronella Ytsma

The swashbuckling poet-soldier Cyrano de Bergerac is, like his gargantuan nose, a larger-than-life figure. It’s only fitting then that Park Square’s current production of “Cyrano” is placed in a setting as buoyantly theatrical as the character himself.

Set in 17th-century France, Edmond Rostand’s “Cyrano” revolves around a love triangle. Heroic but homely Cyrano has lost his heart to his beautiful and brilliant cousin Roxanne. She, however, has eyes only for his fellow soldier, the handsome but inarticulate Christian. Believing himself to be unlovable due to his oversized nose, Cyrano not only concedes the field to Christian, but also assists him in his courtship, providing the soaring poetics that win Roxanne’s love. Comedy and tragedy ensue in equal measures.

In a new version that’s been adapted by Aaron Posner and translator Michael Hollinger, this “Cyrano” has been stripped down to nine characters and framed as a play-within-a-play. That provides a perfect milieu for director Joe Chvala and a strong ensemble to wrest every scrap of frank theatricality out of this work. From an outrageous fight scene in which eight actors conjure a hundred opponents to battle the unstoppable Cyrano in a beautifully nimble ballet of light and shadow, to love scenes that positively drip with sentiment, this production is oversized in every way.

J.C. Cutler’s Cyrano easily dominates the action, equally convincing as the belligerent rooster strutting the stage in oversized boots, itching for a fight, and the achingly vulnerable lover, palpably trembling with emotion. He’s ably matched by Emily Gunyou Halaas’ Roxanne, a characterization marked by charm and a fine sense of humor.

The rest of the cast more than holds its own amidst the light and heat these two characters generate. Sam Bardwell’s tongue-tied Christian combines comic impetuosity with pathos, while Shawn Hamilton offers a finely honed sense of ironic elegy as the narrator and stage manager of the proceedings. Craig Johnson, whose comic range never ceases to amaze, turns in a tour-de-force performance as Roxanne’s coy and mincing chaperone.

Chvala’s sprightly and seamless direction works in perfect tandem with Robin McIntyre’s lovely and intricate set, two movable units comprising myriad staircases, balconies, windows and doors that glide into different configurations to conjure the various locales of the play while keeping the action moving unabated. Annie Enneking’s fight choreography, Evan Middlesworth’s ever-present sound design and Matthew J. LeFebvre’s costumes all add to the rich texture of this production.

This all adds up to a “Cyrano” that’s filled with enough grand gestures, lofty poetics and scathing wit to satisfy even its title character.

 

Lisa Brock writes about theater.

  • CYRANO

    Who: By Edmond Rostand. Translated by Michael Hollinger and adapted by Michael Hollinger and Aaron Posner. Directed by Joe Chvala.

    Where: 20 W. 7th Place, St. Paul.

    When: 7:30 p.m. Thu.-Sat., 2 p.m. Sun. Ends April 6.

    Tickets: $38-$58, 651-291-7005.

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