When Douglas Hodge steps onstage in the Roundabout Theatre Company’s production of “Cyrano de Bergerac,” it is hard to look at anything but the enormous protrusion sticking out of the middle of his face. It’s long, it’s disturbing, and it draws every eye in the theater to Hodge, who plays the title role in this production of Edmond Rostand’s 1897 classic.
“Cyrano de Bergerac” is the story of this nose and the man who bears its burden. Denied any chance for love by his hideous countenance, Cyrano is nevertheless a poet, a soldier, a romantic and a truly remarkable man. When the object of his affections, the beautiful Roxane (Clémence Poésy, “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire”), falls for the handsome yet ineloquent young cadet Christian (Kyle Soller), Cyrano seizes the opportunity to express his love for Roxane vicariously through Christian.
The play is a classic; for good reason. It still holds its own after a hundred years of production history. This production, though, directed by Jamie Lloyd, distinguishes itself with the performance of its leading man.
Hodge, last seen on Broadway in “La Cage Aux Folles,” is a perfect Cyrano. He pines and writes and waxes poetically, his moods and his tone shifting quickly but seamlessly from line to line. Hodge and his prosthetic nose are truly the heart and soul of this production.
He is accompanied by a wonderful supporting cast, including Poésy, Soller and Patrick Page as the villainous Comte De Guiche. Each actor contributes his or her talents to craft the tragic love story around which the play is centered, and they play their parts well.
Poésy plays a spunky yet naive ingenue, woefully ignorant of Cyrano’s feelings for her. Soller’s Christian is as much of a bumbling idiot as ever, yet the actor makes his idiocy impossibly endearing. Page, of course, is every inch the smooth-talking, slimy nobleman from Rostand’s original play. Together, they lead a strong ensemble cast.
The production is not perfect, however. While the design is truly spectacular, transporting us back to 17th century France the moment the curtain goes up, there are several scenes — mostly ones where Hodge is not on stage — that could be tightened. But Hodge’s performance alone is reason enough to see this version of “Cyrano.”
True, it is impossible to look away from his face when he enters, but by the end of the play all eyes are on Hodge for another reason — he has drawn us into Cyrano’s world.
He shows the audience a brilliant man who is unable to share his epic love when he desires nothing more than to tell Roxane he loves her. The audience laughs with him, cries with him and above all, loves him. And by the time the curtain closes, not a single person so much as notices his nose anymore.
“Cyrano de Bergerac” is playing at the American Airlines Theatre, 227 W. 42nd St., through Nov. 25. For tickets and more information, see roundabouttheatre.org.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, Oct. 23 print edition. Dylan Jarrett is a contributing writer. Email her at email@example.com.
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