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Cyrano De Bergerac.

NEW YORK A Roundabout Theater Company presentation of a play in two acts by Edmond Rostand, adapted from the Brian Hooker translation and directed by Frank Langella. Sets, James Noone; costumes, Carrie Robbins; lighting, Marc B. Weiss; sound, Laura Grace Brown; stage manager, Jay Adler. Artistic director, Todd Haimes. Opened Dec. 9, 1997, at the Roundabout's Laura Pets Theater. Reviewed Dec. 4; 399 seats; $50 top. Running time: 2 HOURS, 5 MIN.

Cast: Marcus Chait (Christian), Terry Alexander (Rageneau), Lisa Leguillou (Lise), George Morfogen (le Bret), Allison Mackie (Roxane), Mikel Sarah Lambert (Marguerite), Shawn Elliott (de Guiche), Armand Schultz (Valvert), Adam LeFevre (Montfleury), Frank Langella (Cyrano), Rod McLachlan (Carbon), Brian Keane (Priest), Jeffrey Cox (Soldier).

For the 100th anniversary of Edmond Rostand's classic romantic comedy "Cyrano de Bergerac," Frank Langella and the Roundabout Theater Company offer an unexpansive, pocket-size version lacking in sweep and zest.

"Cyrano" has been adapted from Brian Hooker's 1923 English translation by Langella, who also directs and stars. As the 17th-century poet, philosopher and swordsman with the prodigious proboscis, Langella is the production's centerpiece. His performance is vigorous, with a touch of wistfulness, but he is surrounded by a lackluster cast that never rises to his persuasive level.

Severely abridged, the play has been reduced by Langella to its pivotal scenes and famous speeches, with 20 or more incidental characters and an hour of text snipped; it amounts to little more than a Cliff Notes "Cyrano."

Despite its economy, the tale preserves its romanticism as the chivalrous and disfigured poet secretly writes passionate love letters to his beloved cousin Roxane (Allison Mackie), enabling a handsome young cadet to take credit. Langella, who performed the title role 26 years ago with youthful swagger at the Williamstown Theater Festival, now presents a grizzled, world-weary and weathered Cyrano.

He is less dashing this time around, but very much a sharp-witted, gallant soul. There is that sonorous voice, and the familiar lines are delivered with richness and clarity. Resigned to the loss of his beloved Roxane to an inarticulate youth, Langella evokes heartbreak with a weeping coda.

Mackie, as the impulsive Roxane, is spirited and sweet. The poetic clowning of Rageneau, the pastry cook, has been axed, which leaves Terry Alexander, without his almond-tart rhymes, acting as mere gofer. Cyrano's friend and confidant le Bret (George Morfogen) lacks the required warmth and concern, and the aristocratic villain, de Guiche, is neither icy nor imperious as acted by Shawn Elliott. Marcus Chait's tongue-tied suitor is transparently pallid and hollow.

With no wigs, ruffles, lace or gauntlets, the actors wear simple and unattractive leather doublets, robbing soldiers of their menace and noblemen of their flourish. Worst of all, there are no plumes, prompting Langella to alter the timeless closing line from "my white plume" to "my shining soul."

The set of a garden balcony with louvered doors, marble steps, arches and towers serves the action comfortably, as does the autumnal lighting design. But while Paris is celebrating the centennial with three different productions of "Cyrano" playing to packed houses, New York merely is handed a concert reading.

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Title Annotation:Lyric Theater; London, England
Author:Wolf, Matt
Article Type:Theater Review
Date:Dec 15, 1997
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