A Review of The Arden Theatre Company's 'Cyrano'

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Keith Randolph Smith as Le Bret, David Bardeen as Ragueneau, Eric Hissom as Cyrano, and Jessica Cummings as Roxane in Arden Theatre Company's production of Cyrano. Photo by Mark Garvin.
Keith Randolph Smith as Le Bret, David Bardeen as Ragueneau, Eric Hissom as Cyrano, and Jessica Cummings as Roxane in Arden Theatre Company's production of Cyrano. Photo by Mark Garvin.

I had really high expectations going into the Arden’s production of “Cyrano.” Not only does the Arden have a track record for putting on wonderful shows, but “Cyrano” is my favorite play of all time. Having seen the Broadway revival with Kevin Kline a few years ago (and being a huge fan of the film version with Gérard Depardieu), I wondered how the Arden version was going to stack up. I really shouldn’t have been surprised that “Cyrano” at the Arden blew me away.

But let’s start at the beginning. I knew I was in for a treat as soon as I walked into the theater. This set for “Cyrano” is truly inspired. It is a two story build, with two wrought-iron spiral staircases flanking a balcony. The back wall of the second ‘story’ is filled with gold framed mirrors, which are actually a type of plexi-glass. These mirrors doubled as projector screens to set the mood with various images, which was incredibly beautiful and cool.

Now, let’s talk about the phenomenal cast. Early on in the play, I got to see one of my favorite Philly actors, Scott Greer, portray the unforgettable role of Montfleury. The character is a larger than life actor that Cyrano de Bergerac has forbid to take the stage for a month. Greer’s Montfleury was hysterical, and little did I know, it would not even be the best role he’d play during the production (I won’t spoil that surprise for you, but believe me, you’ll understand when you see it).

Scott Greer as Bellerose in Arden Theatre Company's production of Cyrano. Photo by Mark Garvin.
Scott Greer as Bellerose in Arden Theatre Company's production of Cyrano. Photo by Mark Garvin.

We need to talk about Cyrano himself. This character is one of the most complex and interesting people in literature, in my opinion. As is pointed out in the very beginning of the play, he is a man of intense contradictions. He is the bravest of heroes, and yet a total coward when it comes to admitting what is in his own heart. It takes unbelievable skill to play Cyrano well, to balance out his conflicting elements, and several famous actors have accomplished it, making the role all the more daunting. But if it concerned the Arden’s Cyrano, Eric Hissom, it didn’t show. From the moment he swaggered onto the stage, Hissom owned it. He infused Cyrano with just the right amount of bravado and vulnerability. I can’t speak for the entire audience, but watching Hissom made me instantly in love with Cyrano all over again. I can honestly say, without exaggeration, that Hissom totally holds his own against the likes of Cyranos past, whether it be Kline, Depardieu, or even José Ferrer.

And while I have heaped praise upon Greer and Hissom, let me not forget the rest of this amazing group of actors that makes up this stellar production. Most members of the cast wore many hats, transforming themselves into multiple characters throughout the show. Some highlights: Luigi Sottile was a fantastic Christian. When he climbed the balcony for that kiss, he totally blew me away. And Jessica Cummings was just lovely as Roxane. Roxane is a difficult character in my opinion, because technically she’s working against the interests and desires of our beloved protagonist, Cyrano. But instead of Roxane being a thankless and forgettable element (cough Jennifer Garner cough), Cummings’s portrayal ensured that the character was still endearing. You could see why Christian and Cyrano were both mad for her.

Luigi Sottile as Christian and Jessica Cummings as Roxane in Arden Theatre Company's production of Cyrano. Photo by Mark Garvin.
Luigi Sottile as Christian and Jessica Cummings as Roxane in Arden Theatre Company's production of Cyrano. Photo by Mark Garvin.

As if it isn’t evident in the first paragraph, I loved the Arden’s production of “Cyrano”. It is something that you really should go see, because I feel like no matter what I write, I can’t do the experience justice. The story is brought to life by such a talented group of people. It is my favorite Arden production to date, and I’ll be heading out to see it a second time for sure, if not a third. It’s that good.

“Cyrano” runs through April 15, 2012. Ticket prices range from $29- $45, and there are discounts available for seniors, students, military and educators. Call the Arden Box Office at 215-922-1122, order online at www.ardentheatre.org, or visit the box office at 40 N. 2nd Street in Old City, Philadelphia.

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