Cyrano: Fast-Paced Family Fun at Gloucester Stage Company
By Tom Hauck
With a script by Jason O’Connell and Brenda Withers, Cyrano, making its New England area premiere at Gloucester Stage Company, takes direct aim at our traditional notions of onstage storytelling. The opening scene, in which a group of people who appear to be real-life stagehands suddenly assume the roles of the characters, alerts us that this adaptation of the 1897 play by Edmond Rostand knows not the artificial boundary of the fourth wall. The costumes worn by the five energetic actors are a mishmash of ordinary street clothes, community-theatre “swashbuckler” capes, and various forms of period headgear, further reinforcing the idea that we’re seeing an edgy, improvisational performance.
The story is familiar and needn’t be told again here. During the two and one-half hour (including intermission) romp, the sparkling ensemble cast, anchored by Jeremiah Kissel as Cyrano and Andrea Goldman as Roxane, puts out enough comic energy to keep the audience riveted. James Ricardo Milord reveals the humility and humanity of love-struck Christian, and Erin Nicole Washington masterfully handles split-second costume changes to bring her five characters to life. Among his three other roles, GSC favorite Paul Melendy delights as Count De Guiche, the pompous commander of the army unit to which Cyrano and Christian belong, and who’s also smitten by Roxane.
Despite the slapdash appearance of the blocking, there are moments of precision choreography, most notably the breathtaking sword fight in which Cyrano efficiently dispatches a succession of foes. But again, the notion that we’re attending a contrived “play” is confirmed by seeing a vanquished actor roll off the platform only to spring to life, grab a different cloak, and attack again. Thus five actors economically create a swirling melee of dozens of combatants.
In keeping with the improv vibe, the set is minimal and the actors themselves are the stagehands, busily drawing curtains and positioning chairs as needed. Deftly directed by GSC artistic director Robert Walsh, Cyrano provides a feast of fine acting, frivolity, and family fun. Now through August 11. For tickets, go to www.gloucesterstage.com, or call 978-281-4433.