A nose by any other name

Cyrano de Bergerac

Ryan Palomo as Cyrano, left, practices a fight scene with William Blake, who plays Valvert.

Ryan Palomo as Cyrano, left, practices a fight scene with William Blake, who plays Valvert.

Photo By David Robert

Rated 3.0

Sword fights, clever wordplay, fine ladies and a plethora of nose jokes come together this weekend in the Nevada Repertory Company’s production of Edmond Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac.

This ambitious production takes audiences on a tour of 17th century France. At the heart of the story is Cyrano (Ryan Palomo) himself, the greatest fighter, the best poet, altogether the perfect man, except for one small—or rather, large—flaw: his nose.

Cyrano’s self-doubt regarding his appearance is the obstacle that prevents him from approaching the woman he loves: the beautiful, romance-loving Roxane (Hana Freeman). She is also pursued by Christian de Neuvillette (Zachary L.J. Bortot), a dashing young cadet newly arrived in Paris. This love triangle forms the core of the show, creating moments of both hilarity and sadness.

The play opens in a theater, a lively scene filled with aristocrats, pickpockets, food sellers, and a motley assortment of Parisians eager to see a play. On this afternoon, the question on everyone’s mind concerns Cyrano, who once threatened to shut down the theater should the bombastic lead actor try to perform again. Cyrano is just the kind of man who can follow through on his threats. Whether he is single-handedly fighting 100 men or composing a ballad while sword-fighting, Cyrano loves making a grand gesture. He champions poetry, wit, courage, eloquence and living life on his own terms without bowing to the demands of others.

Cyrano’s facial protuberance is a source of much humor but only because he is so adept at turning insult into opportunity. During the first act of the play, a silly fop, angry at Cyrano’s interference, boldly insults him by saying, “That nose of yours is big … very big.” This prompts Cyrano to embark on a witty and lengthy list of far more impressive insults that could have been made.

Palomo does an impressive job of capturing Cyrano’s tireless eloquence, and the difficult lines seem to roll off his tongue. The witty dialogue, the intriguing love story, and the attractive design are the production’s strengths. While Romeo and Juliet may contain the theater’s most famous balcony scene, Cyrano de Bergerac can certainly lay claim to the runner-up. In one enjoyable scene, Christian and Cyrano stand beneath Roxane’s balcony window and try to win her affections.

The large cast plays the cadets, poets, ladies, nuns and other Parisians of the 17th century appropriately attired in breeches, long coats and tight-fitting bodices. The visual design offers many appealing moments, including an impressive battle siege. Especially creative were the large hanging rolls, which formed the backdrop of a French bakery, where Parisian poets gather to recite their favorite verses and eat their favorite pastries.

This production is punctuated by bursts of energy—most notably among the cadets in the bakery—but on the whole, it could have used a bit more swash and buckle. At times, it seemed tame and even melancholy in places that called for a lighter tone, higher energy and a more rapid pace.

Nevertheless, this production is successful in taking its audiences back to a time when sword fights were common occurrences and a romantic poem could make a woman weak in the knees.