Cyrano de Bergerac
nytheatre.com review by Sophia Bushong
November 12, 2009
The Queens Players, founded by Richard Mazda in 2005, had to shift base venues a few times before finding a home at the Long Island City Arts Center, in the form of two spaces that make up The Secret Theatre. As the director of their current production of Cyrano de Bergerac, Mazda is clearly finding joy in all 3,000 square feet of his warehouse space, Theatre 1. The players wind around the audience as they enter and exit from every corner and door Mazda has. This is not to say, however, that his priority is spectacle. Mazda rarely lets the focus of the production slip away from this talented ensemble of players or this classic play.
Based very loosely on the life of Hector Savinien de Cyrano de Bergerac (a little about the man himself: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyrano_de_Bergerac), Edmond Rostand's play is both hilarious and heartbreaking, and always poetic. (For a summary, visit Sparknotes.) The simplicity of Mazda's approach to set and costume design (indeed no one is credited with either task in the program, unless I'm missing a page) allows the audience the classic experience of "hearing" the play more than "watching" it. Most everyone in the ensemble handles the verse well and I have rarely been to a show in which so many cast members have such lovely voices. Sarah Bonner, in particular, who plays Roxanne, lends a lot of life to the seduction scene at the balcony with the way she uses her voice. Rostand's heroine has both grit and grace, and there is a lot of each in Bonner's performance.
Though language is not an issue for this ensemble, the momentum and staging of the large group scenes is sometimes a problem. This is a witty play about witty people. Even the dim but beloved Christian, whom Roxanne mistakenly believes is wooing her with words, is articulate on the subject of his limitations. Any hesitation on the part of the cast to deliver a line, beat a drum of war, or launch into the next thought sucks air out of the show. There is a lot of danger and excitement in the opening duel between Cyrano and Valvert, choreographed by Michael Eisenstein, but far less when all the cadets go to war. They don't have all the scene transitions down to their most efficient, and this does stall the pace of the show overall.
However, the show kicks into high gear every time Daniel Wolfe takes the stage as Cyrano. Wolfe is a very confident interpreter of this iconic role and looks like he is having a great deal of fun! He plays the comedy and tragedy of Cyrano's life equally well. Not a beat of wit is lost and he finds a lot of physical comedy, as well. Anthony Martinez is pitch perfect as Christian. He gives the character dignity and self- respect without ever losing the comedy inherent in being the witty Cyrano's foil. The work of Kevin Woods as Le Bret and Daniel Smith as DeGuiche also stands out.
At the heart of Cyrano de Bergerac is Roxanne's realization. She loves the writer and speaker of the words she cherishes for his "soul alone" and not his outward appearance. Like a face or a nose, I think most of the kinks in this production are a superficial feature. They will work themselves out as the cast relaxes into their three week run. In the hands of The Queens Players, the soul of this play is alive and kicking.