Beautifully funny, poignant and often heart wrenching, Cyrano de Bergerac is one of the most famous romantic adventures in world literature. Cyrano is an excellent swordsman from Gascony, a region of France famous for producing stubborn, courageous and grandiose soldiers. He is besotted with the beautiful and alluring Roxanne, and yet, because of his famously huge nose, the forlorn Cyrano feels that he can never truly win her heart and keeps his love as a personal and painful secret. In this classic story of unrequited love, Cyrano befriends the handsome Christian de Neuvillette who helps him woo Roxanne by composing elegant love letters and teaching him the arts of eloquence, courtship and poetry. Living his love vicariously through Christian, while desperately yearning for the truth, Cyrano’s passionate adventure unfolds, taking us on a compelling journey through the romantic streets of Paris, the dramatic battlefield of Arras, and the placid cloisters of the convent where this exquisite tale reaches its heart wrenching and emotional conclusion.
Cyrano de Bergerac was first staged to great acclaim at the Theater de la Porte St. Martin in 1897. This superb play immediately thrust the dramatist Edmond Rostand to prominence and led Cyrano to become one of the most famous French plays of the late 19th century. The story, based on a true historical figure, still attracts audiences today, more than ever, both on the stage and in film. Notable film productions of this tale include Jose Ferrer’s Oscar-winning performance in 1950, Gerard Depardieu’s in 1990, and Steve Martin’s modern American version, Roxanne, in 1987.
Act 1: Paris. A performance at the Hotel de Bourgogne
Cyrano de Bergerac goes to see a play because he has forbidden the actor Montfleury to take the stage, but Montfleury plans to perform in the night’s production anyway. Cyrano is deeply in love with his cousin Roxane, but he considers himself too ugly even to risk telling Roxane about his feelings. The handsome, young nobleman Christian is in the audience as well and confides in his friend Ligniere that he too loves Roxane. Montfleury takes the stage, and Cyrano bullies him off it. A group of aristocrats tries to send Cyrano away, but he challenges them all to a duel. While fighting, Cyrano improvises a poem about the duel. Roxane’s duenna brings him a message, asking him to meet Roxane in the morning. He learns that Ligniere has offended a powerful nobleman with his latest satire and that a hundred men are waiting to ambush him. Cyrano proclaims that he will see Ligniere safely home and, if necessary, fight all hundred men.
Act 2: Ragueneau’s pastry-shop
Cyrano meets Roxane at Ragueneau’s pastry shop. He nearly tells her his feelings, but she tells him that she loves Christian, who will soon join Cyrano’s company of guards. She asks Cyrano to protect Christian, and he agrees. When the cadets arrive, Christian tries to prove his courage by insulting Cyrano, but Cyrano embraces him and tells him about Roxane’s feelings. Christian fears that he is a simple, unpoetic man because he considers Roxane an intellectual. Cyrano has the idea that he can write to Roxane pretending to be Christian, and Christian agrees to the plan.
Act 3: Marais. Roxane’s house
Roxane confides in Cyrano that Christian’s letters have moved her inexpressibly. Christian tells Cyrano he no longer wants his help, then makes a fool of himself trying to speak seductively to Roxane. Cyrano makes Christian stand in front of Roxane’s balcony and speaks to her while Cyrano stands under the balcony whispering what to say. Eventually Cyrano pretends to be Christian under the guise of night, winning a kiss for Christian. Roxane and Christian are secretly married by a monk. De Guiche, angry to have lost Roxane, declares that he is sending the Cadets of Gascoyne to the front lines of the war with Spain.
From the front lines, Cyrano writes to Roxane as Christian and sneaks through the Spanish lines to send the letters. De Guiche reveals that the Spaniards will attack within the hour. Roxane arrives at the battlefield to visit Christian. Christian has guessed Cyrano’s secret feelings for Roxane and forces Cyrano to tell her the truth. On the cusp of revealing his feelings, Cyrano is interrupted by a sudden gunshot that kills Christian. Roxane faints, and de Guiche takes her to safety while Cyrano charges into the battle.
Act 5: Paris. Fifteen years later. The park of the Sisters of the Holy Cross
Roxane now lives in a convent where Cyrano visits her every week. His friend Le Bret informs Roxane that Cyrano’s life is in danger because he has made many powerful enemies. Ragueneau rushes in to tell Le Bret that Cyrano has been ambushed and hit with a heavy log pushed from a window. Le Bret and Ragueneau rush off as Cyrano appears to give Roxane a news update. Cyrano asks to read Christian’s last letter to her, and as he reads it, Roxane realizes that Cyrano wrote the letters. Ragueneau and Le Bret rush in to announce that Cyrano is dying because of his injuries. Roxane exclaims that she loves him and that he cannot die. Cyrano, intent on fighting to the end, draws his sword and engages in one last fight.
Aquila Theatre Company will perform Edmond Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac at the Norton Center on Thursday, February 14, 2013. For more information or to buy tickets, visit NortonCenter.com