Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

Wooing "Cyrano" Wows Lakewood

Cleveland Press July 24, 1967

The Great Lakes Shakespeare Festival abandoned the Bard last night to present Edmond Rostand's ever durable, ever romantic "Cyrano de Bergerac." The production undoubtedly will be the box office hit of the season.

It isn't that Rostand is superior to Shakespeare but that "Cyrano" is a far more digestible comedy than the recently offered "Love's Labour's Lost."

This 1897 play about 17th Century France remains quaint without being a museum piece. It is flowery, romantic and artificial but it has speeches that are an actor's delight and sufficient wit to distract an audience from its contrivances.

IN THE TITLE ROLE Louis Edmonds, fitted with a long nose, plays with dash and vigor; projects the vibrato of a romantic ham while giving his lines an intelligent reading.

In the early scenes he gave the dialog some of the sardonic bite of a Clifton Webb, then moved into the more flamboyant aspects of the part -- into the flowery speeches, the exaggerated bravado, the anguish of unrequited love.

His Cyrano is one of acting rather than vocal tricks. His voice is more than adequate but not a wide-ranging one that booms in the lower register. Instead he offers a variety of phrasing and clear-cut changes of mood.

PENELOPE REED is more than just decorative as Roxanne as she almost makes this flowery, silly and unbelievable heroine real.

Gary De LaVigne is good as Christian and Peter Blaxill is an amusing Ragueneau. Susan Willis, Delphi Harrington and Norma Joseph, all doubling in several bit parts are excellent.

In a few of the other large speaking parts the actors displayed a hesitancy in speaking and picking up cues that tended to slow down the action.

SET DESIGNER Milton Howarth has gone all out in making this a relatively lavish production and so has costume designer Bernadette O'Brien.

Director Lawrence Carra has filled his stage with crowds of people who move about and keep busy without being distracting. The comedy is played as broadly as possible, especially in secondary roles.

When Cyrano holds the stage however, as he does most of the time, the emphasis is on the flowery, romantic, poetic, and humorous speeches which make this play so much the product of another time -- still entertaining today.