I feel guilty not spending as much time reviewing a Broadway Cyrano de Bergerac as I have in the past, but the truth is, I haven’t that much to say; and that’s because, at least as far as I can perceive, the production hasn’t that much to say. Director Jamie Lloyd expends much effort filling the stage with rousing testosterone (most of the characters are of course male and most soldiers), but it tends to come over in a wash of rowdiness without too much meaningful individual-character particularization. And then there’s British actor Douglas Hodge—last seen here as Albin in the most recent Broadway revival of La cage Aux Folles—as Cyrano. The occasion of his entrance from the house is done so cleverly that it caused my significant other to utter under her breath, “Great.” It was, alas, the high point. I won’t spoil it, but the device was thereafter attenuated past its point, and when Hodge finally got around to taking stage proper…it was all downhill. And for the stupidest of reasons. And I hate to say it: one I anticipated.
You can’t understand half of what he says.
He makes a lot of great noises, he inflects up, he inflects down, he does loud, he does soft, but he’s so concerned with effect—racing through a passage with bullet muscularity, slowing down to mutter in contemplation, “stick shifting” into dramatic transition when Cyrano is surprised or needs to make a snap decision—that he sacrifices basic diction. (He did the same in La Cage, but musical theatre compression, the metric precision of music and the familiarity-&-structure of the lyrics [and indeed the show] made the vocalizes seem merely a self-conscious indulgence. But in Cyrano de Bergerac, with its speeches and sprawl, they render him incomprehensible 50% of the time.)
The rest of the production is Cyrano-generic; its Chistian (Kyle Soller) and Roxane (Clémence Poséy) filling out the archetypes without standing out; and the one supporting performance of note being given by Patrick Page, giving a near-classic delivery of Cyrano’s nemesis Count De Guiche, silky smooth and resonantly voiced and not quite part of the same production, as his performance seems to be drawn from a well of stylistic authenticity, communicable emotion, and even some inspiration. Come to think of it, one might only wonder how good his Cyrano might be…
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