Before I say anything, I must be sincere about my dislike of Edmond Ronstand’s Cyrano de Bergerac. Beautiful as Ronstand’s verses are, the “what” never was a novelty and the “how” is marred by colossal lack of timing – the comedy scenes take ages to take off and the dramatic scenes are rather sentimentalised. In order to make it work, a director needs to impress an unfailing sense of rhythm to the proceedings and concentrate on extracting from his actors the last ounce of charisma available. And I am afraid David Levaux failed on that – the general impression is at most workmanlike. It is thus particularly problematic that Tom Rye’s beautiful sceneries are too spacious and a lot of noise echoes there while actors are reading their verbose lines. The result is that you can hardly hear what most of them are saying… In this sense, Concetta Tomei deserves praises for her king size voice and personality unfortunately bestowed on small roles.
Among the leading actors, Kevin Kline predictably stands out – he is a technically accomplished actor who gives life to his lesser utterance and knows how to seize the opportunities when they present themselves. Unfortunately, they rarely did so considering the rest of the talents involved.
Much of the play’s interest lies on Cyrano’s dialogues with Christian. The problem is that Daniel Sunjata is simply miscast – he is neither good-looking in a way Rosanne could have noticed (with the impossible wig he is made to wear, he looks like The Rock in The Scorpion King, i.e., there is nothing poetic about him) nor produces the impression of good-hearted stolidness – self-consciousness at most.
The fact that Jennifer Garner has limited theatre experience makes me more tolerant about her shortcomings. She has received excellent coaching – and the bad news is that this is evident. Gestures and inflexions are all in place and correctly done – but there is very little spirit behind all that. It all looks like well-rehearsed routine. Maybe experience will enable her to do the trick – she does have a good voice and a most graceful figure and that is already something.
Minor roles are dealt with in the way operatic direction deals with comprimari – they are given one defining trait and you’ll notice them if the actor or actress has natural charisma. In one word, a missed opportunity.