FTT’s ‘Cyrano’ is a stunning spectacle
Ayden Kowalski | Tuesday, February 22, 2022
The twin theses of “Cyrano” are professed in the opening number, a ballad performed in shadows: our heroine alone and accompanying herself on the piano as admirers emerge from the woodworks of the set. “All they know is what they see,” she laments, a promise of her deconstruction from the town heroine to a human being. Another task the show sets for itself is proclaimed by the chorus, calling out, “Give us a show, Cyrano.” Both the woman and the show deliver.
Produced and reimagined by the department of film, television and theatre, “Cyrano” follows its titular poet and swordfighter through a journey of unrequited love. Cyrano pines for her friend Roxanne from afar, but Roxanne has her sights set on an attractive and poorly-spoken man named Christian. Cyrano agrees to write love letters from Christian to Roxanne, secretly drawing on Cyrano’s own feelings. Roxanne falls in love with the soul shown in the letters. While it is traditionally Cyrano’s large nose standing between him and his lover, Cyrano is a heroine in this play, which means there are other potential barriers the audience can infer from this reimagined relationship.
The brilliant script, written by director and associate professor of film, television and theatre Matt Hawkins, makes several wonderful changes to the classic story, such as transforming one exchange of insults into a quasi-rap battle with hype men behind the inept loser. The decision to reinterpret this love story gives the play a special weight, as there are many people today who, like Cyrano, feel that the external constraints of their community inhibit them from sharing their true feelings.
The production is incredible. The set’s chief element is a wooden ring with a roof that wraps around most of the stage. The show takes full advantage of this height, building out the world with gawking spectators watching a sword fight from above or realizing the dazzling distance between characters. The sword fights in this show are breathtaking in their realism, with no stiffness in the actors’ movements or emotions as they flow through the choreography. The action has also been constructed to surround the audience, as the combatants whirl through the ground-level pit within the ring. In one memorable scene, mysterious assailants rush out into the pit at our heroine from every direction, which throw the audience into the frenzy, anxiously cheering on Cyrano.
Senior Grace Thomas’ performance as Cyrano is superlative. In addition to dancing with her blade and playing the piano, she draws the audience fully into the emotional swoops of her character, at times unshakably confident and at other points utterly heartbroken and shattered. One of the highlights of the whole show is her performance in a duet, as she stands unseen behind Roxanne as the latter sings for Christian. Cyrano howls out her inner monologue, embedding her spare cries of “I want you” and “I love you” with a slashing heartache that burns the moment in the audience’s memory.
Christian’s character is wonderfully realized by junior Nic Meringolo, both very funny (his original ode to Roxanne is the comedic peak of the show) and greatly compelling. Meringolo portrays Christian’s weighty decision in the middle of the second act with resonant compassion and sincerity. Additionally, senior Macy Mateer’s performance as Ligniere, an aspiring poet in awe of Cyrano, gives the show its musical highlights. Her raucous drinking song in act one could have turned the DPAC crowd into a mosh pit, but her piano ballad in act two was easily the show’s best song.
“Cyrano” is electric. Its grandeur only complements its compelling characters, whose story is simultaneously well-told and contemporary. It is a human spectacle that knows how to answer the chorus’ call to give them a show: to show us a human being and let her pain and passion move us.
Tickets to “Cyrano” are available to purchase through the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center website, or in person before each performance.
Starring: Grace Thomas, Nic Meringolo, Macy Mateer, Elizabeth Maroshick
Director: Matt Hawkins
Where: Philbin Studio Theatre, DeBartolo Performing Arts Center
When: Feb. 17-20, 23-27
Shamrocks: 5 out of 5
Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story incorrectly said Grace Thomas is a junior. Thomas is a senior. The Observer regrets this error.