Whether or not you've heard of "Cyrano de Bergerac," you've probably seen a romantic comedy based on the play that bears his name. A character with a gift for words and a beautiful soul but an ugly visage aids a beautiful but simple friend in winning over the object of their affection.
It's been remixed and parodied in pop culture enough to have taken its rightful place in the collective consciousness. Think of the 1987 film "Roxanne" or "The Truth About Cats and Dogs" from 1996. The basic story of the play has also been used in countless television sitcoms, and the balcony scene, in which Cyrano supplies the sweet poetry his handsome friend relays to the beautiful Roxane, is instantly recognizable.
Swift Creek Mill's production of "Cyrano de Bergerac" takes audiences back to the beginning of this familiar romantic trope. Here we have Cyrano as he was written in 1897, when Edmund Rostrand's play premiered: the quick-witted, large-nosed swashbuckling poet, secret lover of Roxane, a woman whose heart can only be won with beautiful words.
Director John Moon has brought Cyrano and his world to life beautifully, capturing all of the romance, humor and action of each scene with precision and panache. Emily Frankel's updated text remains true to Rostrand's original. The script is intelligent but unfussy, and these actors know how to sell each line.
This production boasts an impressive cast, featuring some of Richmond's finest actors. Matt Bloch is a tour de force in the title role. His Cyrano is whip-smart, valorous and sweet, a sympathetic leading man. Rachael Rose Gilmour is perfect as Roxane, and David Janosik brings his comedic sensibilities to his role as the handsome Christian. Thomas L. Cunningham is delightful as Ranueneau and Walter C.A. Riddle is a charismatic Captain LaBret. The ensemble players in this production, all of whom portray multiple characters throughout the show, are also excellent. In particular, Debra Wagoner and Jacqueline Jones both absolutely shine.
Aaron Orensky's fight choreography is one of the highlights of this play, and I do wish the script called for more onstage dueling, as these moments were some of my favorite. Maura Lynch Cravey has designed and collected a full wardrobe of period costumes that help evoke the mood and setting against Frank Foster's almost modern set. With its moveable parts all in white, the set works perfectly in tandem with Joe Doran's lighting design, which uses washes of color to represent new and different settings for each scene.
All in all, Swift Creek Mill's "Cyrano de Bergerac" is lively, entertaining theater, featuring some of the best actors in town performing at their very best in a production dedicated to the late Andrew Boothby, who would have played the title role. It's a production that honors his memory well, and one that audiences should not miss.
Swift Creek Mill's "Cyrano de Bergerac" runs through March 2. Tickets cost $35 - $40. swiftcreekmill.com.