Los Angeles Theater Review: CYRANO (Independent Shakespeare Co.)

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by Jesse David Corti on November 11, 2013

in Theater-Los Angeles


Cyrano de Bergerac is the story of a fearless, witty, charismatic romantic whose grotesque nose prevents him from pursuing Roxanne, the woman he loves. Roxanne is smitten by Christian, a handsome man whose only fault is not being equipped with Cyrano’s wit. When Cyrano decides to write missives to Roxanne as Christian, the combination of a beautiful soldier and a literate poet brings the deceivers what they want most: André Martin as Cyrano and Amy Urbina as Roxanne in Independent Shakespeare's production of CYRANO.Roxanne’s heart. But at what cost? As Jose Ferrer, Gerard Depardieu and Kevin Kline have proven on stage and in film, the eponymous role of Cyrano requires a thespian who can portray the tender romantic with many colors and grace notes.

Yet in the Independent Shakespeare Company’s painful attempt at this widely heralded classic, André Martin’s Cyrano is a hodgepodge characterization embodying the worst facets of Bob Newhart, Robert Downey Jr. and Woody Allen; he’s realized as a rambling, stuttering neurotic. Martin fails to grasp that the reason Cyrano is both beloved by the public and scorned by the elite is that he’s positively firm and secure in his bold, poetic convictions. Not once does Martin display the public speaking prowess that the character requires. Similarly, Martin’s tweaked adaptation dispenses with subtlety altogether, especially when it comes to the scenes involving Christian and Roxanne. Neither romatically wistful nor testosterone-fueled, Kevin Angulo plays Christian like an eight-year-old in a twenty-year-old body, á la Tom Hanks in Big; it’s an appallingly ineffective choice.

André Martin as Cyrano in Independent Shakespeare's production of CYRANO.The cast fails to embody the roles so colorfully sketched by Rostand, largely due to seemingly anachronistic behavior: It is unclear exactly in what time period the piece is supposed to be set. Moreover, is this just a place “called France” or this is supposed to be France with French folks? They all wear jeans and vests, and some of the women double as men, made-up in vaudeville-style curlicue moustaches—which begs the question: Is this intended to be a parody of the tragedy? In spite of all the odd acting, the answer is no. Due to a lack of specificity and subtlety, Rostand’s intricately woven and nuanced Cyrano is transformed to garbage by the bludgeoning courtesy of Melissa Chalsma’s tepid and wishy-washy direction. Cyrano, with his aching heart and malformed proboscis, is the one who is supposed to suffer, not the production—and certainly not the audience.

poster photo by Mike Ditz

Independent Shakespeare Co.
Atwater Crossing Complex, 3191 Casitas Avenue
ends on November 24, 2013
for tickets, call 818-710-6306 or visit ISC

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