Friday, November 02, 2007

Cyrano Critics Offer Thumbs Down By A Nose

Cyrano Critics Offer Thumbs Down By A Nose

Critics were decidedly mixed on the merits of reviving Cyrano de Bergerac for the twelfth time on Broadway. Under David Leveaux's direction, Edmond Rostand's classic opened last night at the Richard Rodgers Theatre and stars Kevin Kline in the title role with Jennifer Garner as Roxane.

Calling the show "a double shot of silvery hokum, sweet but surprisingly potent," The New York Times' Ben Brantley offers -- perhaps astoundingly -- the single most positive review: "(Leveaux) is the perfect man to bring Cyrano into the 21st century, presenting the play’s flowery sensibility without making audiences feel they’ve been doused in perfume.... Mr. Kline knows what he’s doing. His bluster-free take on a man of bluster grows on you by stealth, and once you’re used to it, it makes wonderfully good sense....Ms. Garner, I am pleased to report, makes Roxane a girl worth pining over."

Positing that Cyrano is one of those plays that "wear their elegance within," Linda Winer of Newsday is mostly upbeat: "Kline, arguably New York's best argument for a popular classical theater, is not the only deeply satisfying pleasure in Cyrano de Bergerac....Jennifer Garner has moved with astonishing grace from being a TV double-agent in "Alias" to making her Broadway debut as Roxane....Garner, who studied theater before TV and movies snapped her up, breaks the recent Broadway curse of the Hollywood stars. With a lamb face and long serious bones, she flips comfortably from the comic to the plucky and, finally, to the heroic."

Despite deadpanning "A great play, it isn't," New York Post's Clive Barnes summons up some good things to say in his two-and-a-half star review: "In the Cyrano that opened last night, Kline dishes out panache, clashes swords, flashes wicked grins and, finally, dampens hankies with the best of them. But there is more to Cyrano than braggadocio and sentimentality, as the great Sir Ralph Richardson first demonstrated more years ago than I care to calculate, and now Kline helps confirm....[I]f you just go to see Kline, battling against all odds -- and, even while looking far too handsome, acting his good-natured heart out -- you will certainly get your money's worth."

Criticizing it as an "only intermittently effective revival," David Rooney of Variety delivers a less-than-glowing critique: "We get gorgeous stage pictures and an eloquent if oddly low-energy performance in the title role from Kevin Kline but not much in the way of real passion....In contrast to the bold design statements, Leveaux imposes a modern, naturalistic feel on a play that should thrum with melodramatic grandness and hyperbole. It's all a little tame and sober: Even the soaring declarations of love lack intensity."

Saying "It looks expensive, and it feels cheap," Eric Grode of the New York Sun delivers a solid pan: "Kevin Kline doesn't do a blessed thing wrong in the title role of Cyrano de Bergerac. And, as his whip-smart inamorata, Roxane, Jennifer Garner does almost nothing right. Yet David Leveaux's boisterous revival of Edmond Rostand's 1897 swords-and-sobs verse drama never offers the lift one can receive from great or, in those rare but almost as unforgettable moments, terrible theater. It just lumbers around the stage, dragging along a slew of staggering drunkards, giggling wenches and preening soldiers like so many stray puppies. It looks expensive, and it feels cheap."

Labeling the production "emotionally stillborn," Joe Dziemianowicz of New York's Daily News also heaps on the scorn: "The listlessness of the three-hour production is all the more disappointing since Edmond Rostand's 1897 play is rich with drama, comedy, romance and even swashbuckling....(Kline is) never larger-than-life thrilling, and that's what's needed to make the story soar. It doesn't help that Kline gets swallowed up in the cavernous playing area devised by director David Leveaux....Jennifer Garner...brings her natural beauty to Roxane, but she's miscast....As Christian, Daniel okay-looking, but he rivals an onstage leafless tree for stark woodenness."

So with these reviews in mind, I'll be taking in a performance of the play over the next few days and will provide my own SOB Review shortly thereafter. The limited run of Cyrano de Bergerac is scheduled to run through December 23.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Click here for tickets.
Related Stories:
Opening Night By A Nose (November 1, 2007)
Cyrano On Broadway: In-Klined To Garner Success? (August 2, 2007)

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At 03 November, 2007, Blogger SarahB said...

It's a gorgeous play all the way around - beautiful staged, acted, presented from costumes to lighting. I've encouraged 8 people to see it so far. GO SEE IT.

At 05 November, 2007, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Thanks for the comments, Sarah. I did see and will be writing my SOB Review shortly.

At 06 November, 2007, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Sarah, By now, you may have read my review. I agree on the beautiful staging, costumes and lighting, but I only half agree on the acting. Still, I enjoyed it.


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