He also bears Cyrano's nose with pride. And thanks to makeup man Michael Myer, Bridgewater sports a doozy, an epic shnozz several inches in length. It is that nose that makes Cyrano burn with self-consciousness and leads him to the deception that fuels the play.
Cyrano has loved Roxanne (Erin Thomas) since they were both children, but she proclaims her love for a handsome new recruit in Cyrano's regiment in the French army. This recruit, Christian (David Winning), doesn't have the requisite poetic skills needed for proper wooing of Roxanne, so Cyrano agrees to provide them. The result is the kind of romance-by-proxy that has fueled dozens of lesser stories since.
In "Cyrano," the situation is first played for laughs, most notably in the moonlight farce that ends in Roxanne and Christian getting married. But in the second act, Cyrano and Christian are sent to war where they are commanded by the spiteful Comte de Guiche (Rick Brandt). It is in these scenes that we see the tragic consequences of the deception. It is also where the rest of the cast emerges from Bridgewater's shadow.
Winning imbues Christian with surprising nobility as he realizes that Roxanne really loves Cyrano. And Andrew Boothby shines as the trusty friend Le Bret who sticks by Cyrano to the end.
Director Steve Perigard stages the action expertly. In the first act, working with fight director Aaron Anderson, he delivers the best swordfight I have ever seen onstage. In this battle, Cyrano composes an extemporaneous ballad while parrying with a pompous aristocrat. Words and action blend seamlessly as scared spectators scurry about on the fringes of the melee. Costume designer Austin Sanderson has also outdone himself, dressing the characters with fine Renaissance attire that makes the play a feast for the eyes.
Only because the first act is so compelling does the second act seem to sag. Cyrano's last scene has many stirring moments, but it comes well past the play's three-hour mark and simply seems too long. As Cyrano's energy fades, so does the play.
But Cyrano in his dotage is still an intriguing character with Bridgewater in the role. And the exquisite language Rostand provides him with at his death makes his departure - and the close of this poetic and powerful play truly a sweet sorrow. S
"Cyrano de Bergerac" runs at Barksdale Theatre, at The Shops at Willow Lawn, through Nov. 14. Tickets cost $34-$38, call 282-2620.
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