|Index||2 reviews in total|
My first response to the character of Cyrano de Bergerac in this
version of the play was, "what a jerk." He just seems like a terrible
bully. This wasn't my response to the Jose Ferrer movie, but it's my
response now, although I'm not sure how much of that has to do with
Kline's performance and how much has to do with how my attitudes have
changed since I was in college.
I'll get back to Kline, but first I have to speak of Jennifer Garner's off kilter performance.
I understand the temptation to put a more modern spin on an old play, and turn demur heroines into feisty fireballs, but Garner's performance feels far more appropriate to a production of Annie Get Your Gun than to Cyrano. The problem is that Garner's Roxanne is so brash and brassy that she seems neither like someone who would be admired by every courtly man she met nor like someone who would prize elegant prose; she seems more like someone who would judge a man's appeal by his skills in shootin' and wrastlin'.
It is ideal for the audience to fall in love with Roxanne; I never even liked her much.
As for Kline, his performance lacks the grand sweep of Ferrer's. He is a very low key Cyrano, and while once again it is understandable to want to play with a character's traditional representation, it just doesn't work. I think this is why he seems like such a bully at the beginning. By underplaying the part, he doesn't sweep you up in his grandiosity and wit. Cyrano needs to be so much bigger than life that he seems justifiably unbound by convention.
I think ultimately Cyrano de Bergerac is not a play that lends itself to revisionist performances. You can play Shakespearean characters many different ways because there is always an ambiguity to the characters; you can endlessly debate purpose and motive. Rostand's play is very straightforward - it's little more than an excuse for a lot of clever dialog - and the characters are not deeply drawn enough to warrant trying to make them anything other than their surface appearance. And a production of the play in which Roxanne is a stronger, more masculine force than Cyrano simply cannot work.
That being said, it's still a well written play with a lot of of witty dialog and an engaging story, so it is still reasonably enjoyable. And for all my objections, the ending was quite touching. But this could have been so much better.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is an emotionally empty star-driven production where a remarkably
handsome actor slaps on a fake nose and expects us to be moved at his
lamentations over how ugly he is, despite being one of the best-looking
people on the stage while he is doing it. Kline - who too often plays
for laughs when delicate pathos is called for - is completely lacking
in the panache, poetic depths of feeling, or soldierly muscle that made
Gérard Depardieu and José Ferrer so memorable in the role. Instead, the
impression Kline makes is of a vain, self-satisfied ham who fails to
move the audience in any way. Particularly disappointing is the famous
balcony scene where Cyrano is finally able to express his love for
Roxanne, which the actors play as a broad farce so that there is no
emotional foundation for the dark scenes that follow.
But even Kline's unsatisfying performance is vastly superior to the vulgar, amateurish display put on by Jennifer Garner as Roxanne, whose behavior is so crude and lacking in subtlety that she seems a far better match for the oafish Christian than the eloquent Cyrano. The rest of the cast ranges from bland to self-indulgently hammy, with the forgettable Daniel Sunjata in the unfortunate position of being a Christian who is less physically attractive than Cyrano.
The production is richly designed and pretty to look at, but the result seems the antithesis of the theme of the play, where physical beauty is transcended by emotional depth. In this case, the depth is alarmingly lacking.
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