Wall Street Journal, by Terry Teachout
Review of Cyrano de Bergerac, adapted and directed by James DeVita.
Mr. DeVita is also a gifted writer and director, and APT is featuring him in both of those capacities in his own adaptation of Edmond Rostand’s “Cyrano de Bergerac,” a play too often staged with a winking levity that undermines its wholehearted romanticism. Far from being a postmodern ironist, Rostand’s long-nosed protagonist (James Ridge ) is the truest of believers in old-fashioned heroism, and there is nothing remotely funny about his inability to confess his love to the beauteous Roxane (Laura Rook ). Yes, “Cyrano” is corny, but if you play it that way, it doesn’t work: It must be done sincerely or not at all. That’s why neither of the past two Broadway revivals, with Kevin Kline in 2007 and Douglas Hodge in 2012, quite came off. Both productions lacked the underlying gravity without which Cyrano’s flights of rhetoric can end up sounding silly.
Mr. DeVita and Mr. Ridge, by contrast, give us a “Cyrano” of near-Shakespearean weight, never exaggerated and never frivolous. The harmonious nature of their approach is made clear as soon as Cyrano makes his first entrance—his nose is only just long enough to explain his incapacitating self-consciousness—and Mr. Ridge, who is as accomplished an actor as Mr. DeVita, speaks Rostand’s verse with such fiery elegance that you are never in doubt of his fundamental seriousness. As for Ms. Rook, she is more than equal to the challenge of appearing opposite Mr. Ridge. Radiant and passionate, she is also palpably intelligent, which is the point of the part:
Mr. DeVita has opted for his own English-language version of Rostand’s 1897 play, much but not all of it cast in loose iambic pentameter, in preference to Anthony Burgess’s stricter, now-standard verse adaptation. I can see why. Burgess’s version is well-turned and marvelously witty, but it is not the work of a man of the theater. Mr. DeVita’s adaptation, by contrast, reminds me of Charles Laughton’s English-language version of Bertolt Brecht’s “Galileo”: Even the most ornately phrased passages are easily speakable, an essential consideration for successful production in APT’s 1,088-seat Up-the-Hill Theatre, the outdoor amphitheater where the play is being presented. It is the crowning touch of a “Cyrano” in which all the pieces fit together perfectly, one that I cannot imagine being bettered.