By Edmond Rostand At The SHAKESPEARE THEATER Washington DC Through August 1, 2004—Special to The Montserrat Review, June 2004.
Michael Kahn, one of America’s most brilliant men of theater has directed a play he loves best. He, like many of us, read Cyrano de Bergerac, among the first, early pieces of dramatic literature found. And how it must be for that Director to bring to life, from the excitement of his youth, this magnificent gesture to its author, Edmond Rostand. The translation is wholly new, completely poetic and seems wittier because it uses current references.
From the first lighting of chandelier candles, the illumination belongs to language. Perhaps the French are best at the 8 line stanzas with a refrain of 4, “words sharper than swords” but in this theater piece language is honored, wrestled, exalted, until the drama becomes one long poem A huge cast and yet words are the “rule masters” and never said better. “The only garden I will honor is my own” says our hero, but Cyrano honors Christian’s garden throughout, as we all know, in wooing his beloved cousin, Roxanne, - training Christian to talk—no to speak – until Roxanne melts with the beauty of his soul. Yet it comes from Cyrano’s soul, doesn’t it, “ It is my words tonight she is kissing on his lips," and when Christian dies in battle, it would be 14 years before a final revelation occurs. When Cyrano is older, about to die, he tells Roxanne who it was that she has loved all along. She recognizes the lyrical voice she heard so long ago. Roxanne says, “ I never loved but one man in my life/ And I have lost him-twice.” Cyrano dies, always a hero, dignified by receiving, however briefly, the true love he deserves.
While all the actors are superb (and there are more than two dozen, many on stage at one time,) I never saw a Cyrano “part” better performed. It is the famous speech "Roxanne Roxanne…." under her balcony ... the way actor Geraint Wyn Davies says the famous line likening Roxanne’s name to a bell. Surely never before has an actor playing Cyrano had the courage to mute those words instead of punching them. Panache indeed, like the author meant it to be.
Because I am a poet, I am grateful that the Shakespeare Theater exists. Information 202-608-6302
Grace Cavalieri, producer “The Poet and the Poem from the Library of Congress”