Any revival is an indication of a play’s bid for immortality — at least as immortal as live theater can be. But when a play has its 15th (not counting different incarnations, such as musicals) it surpasses that bid and moves on to wonder.
Such is “Cyrano de Bergerac.”
The latest revival is the Roundabout Theatre Company’s at American Airlines Theatre, on 42nd Street. Now if only this version were a wonder.
It was only five years ago that Kevin Kline turned in an amazing performance in the title role. Though five years is a long time for, say cleaning out your refrigerator, it’s not very long at all when it comes to theater.
Douglas Hodge (Broadway’s “La Cage aux Folles” “Vanity Fair”) is Cyrano. And as the part requires, he is larger than life. OK, larger than the stage, certainly, and the theater can barely contain him. He has his admirers, his followers and though the actors are mostly fine individually, together their power is somnambulistic.
Cyrano, for those who have not read the play or sat through it, is told in verse. It requires a commitment — in time, to slogging through a very long play and to feeling part of The Theater, and yes, this requires capitals. This is not something to which one goes lightly.
Actors since 1897 have worn different nasal incarnations. Cyrano is, after all, supposed to have a nose that enters the room 15 minutes before he does. But this one, well this one looks like a sex toy, and it is rather distracting.
Edmond Rostand‘s play is clever and has, of course, been repeated in every possible genre. Surely there is a rap song, a manga, and a meme about Cyrano. The story, the moral, is timeless: beauty is but skin deep.
Cyrano is a leader among men; a duelist, a poet and fearless. He also has the largest nose and it is so huge that it is impossible to not notice. He is in love with his cousin, Roxanne, here played by the lovely French actress Clemence Poesy. She, in turn, is in love with the handsome, yet dim-witted Christian (Kyle Soller). The posturing dandy Comte de Guiche is also in love with her.
And though that nobleman’s role is a rather thankless part, Patrick Page, who gave the best performance in “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” is also stellar here.
Soutra Gilmour’s sets and costumes are stunning; not in a glamorous, but in an authentic way. Jacob Grigolia-Rosenbaum’s fight scenes are beautifully choreographed.
It is an important play and Hodge has justifiably racked up awards over his career.
Yet the first act stretches on for so long and the entire play feels deadly when Hodge isn’t on, and cramped when he is.