Beverly FriendMUST SEEREVIEWSTheatre Reviews

Cyrano de Bergerac


Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pierchicago shakespeare theater

Written by Edmond Rostand

Adapted and translated by Anthony Burgess

Directed by Penny Metropulos

Brilliant actor does justice to timeless masterpiece

Sometimes, when reading theatre history, one might speculate on what it might have been like to live in the 16th century and see such celebrated actors as Richard Burbage. Historians note that the sheer size and diversity of roles he played revealed his considerable talent.

chicago shakespeare theater

In contemporary theater (and film), many fine actors handle complex roles skillfully. However, how often does one find the truly exceptional, actors who take your breath away, those who will live on in recorded history, as does Burbage?  I can only cite two such stunning performances from personal experience: Christopher Plummer as King Lear in Stratford, Ontario, many years ago, and — just last night — Harry Groener, in his role as Cyrano de Bergerac at The Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s blockbuster launching of the 2013-14 season. They are off to a great start!

Artistic Director Barbara Gaines stated, “We have long wanted to bring this beautiful play to our audience…but we hadn’t found our Cyrano.” They have found him now, and he was worth waiting for!

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Cyrano is a commanding presence, swashbuckling, improvising wonderful rhymes with each thrust of his sword in a dazzling duel, linguistically brilliant, and painfully sensitive to what he sees as his disfigurement — his large nose.  Picturesquely, the character has been summed up as man with the “soul of a poet and the nose of an anteater.”  How, then, can such a man find love?

chicago shakespeare theater

Groener captures every facet and emotion of this complex and highly sympathetic figure. In a virtuoso performance, he  reaches the heights and depths of Cyrano’s  passion for his cousin, the lovely Roxanne (Julie Jesneck) and brings us to agony as we empathize with  his  torment in ghost writing love letters for his handsome, inarticulate rival Christian (Nick Dillenburg).

If ever there were an ironic, painful tale of missed opportunity, it is this one, coupled with theme of looking beyond superficial beauty, which is as poignant and relevant today as when it was written 116 years ago. The story and acting are so heart wrenching that many in the audience were wiping away tears at the same moment that they rose for the highly deserved standing ovation.

It is possible to get a preview of the play’s attractions at where there is a filmed montage of scenes, photos from key moments, and even a glimpse behind the scenes, which includes pictures of Kevin Depinet’s magnificent multilevel stage set, and Susan Mickey’s flamboyant, colorful 300 costumes outfitting the large, talented ensemble. Worth seeing, they will whet your appetite for this production, which is NOT TO BE MISSED!  

Highly Recommended

Beverly Friend, Ph.D.

Member ATC

 Jeff Recommended

Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier. 80 E. Grand Ave., (312) 595-600, Tickets $48-78, 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays; 8 p.m. Saturdays, 1 p.m. Wednesdays; 2 and 6:30 p.m. on Sundays through Nov 10. Running time three hours including a 15-minute intermission.

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