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THEATER REVIEW Cyrano
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Mary Shen Barnidge
2018-02-13

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Playwright: Michael P. Dalberg

At: Theater Above the Law at Jarvis Square, 1349 W. Jarvis Ave. Tickets: $20. Runs through: March 4

What you need to know about Edmond Rostand's Cyrano de Bergerac is that there are these two guys—one is a smart, talented, sensitive, athletic rock star, but ugly ( or thinks he is ), and the other is a hunky airhead—who are both in love with the same girl. Since the brainy guy wants the girl to be happy, he helps the dummy woo her ( not being too bright, herself, she falls for it ). Famous scenes include a duel accompanied by a poem recital, an offstage one-against-a-crowd brawl, a list of insults, some hi-jinks in a bakery, and a three-way courtship under a balcony with both swains lobbing sweet nothings at the unwary object of their affections.

The only additional thing you need to know is that this 1897 swashbuckler ranks right alongside Lysistrata and The Duchess of Malfi as the classroom classic most likely to be reimagined/parodied/scavenged for its prognosticative relevance to current events in the 2018. Thus, Michael P. Dalberg's adaptation for Theater Above the Law proposes a lesbian Cyrano, enamored of het hottie Roxanne, but oblivious to the devotion of bestie Donna LeBret. Also crushing on Roxie are handsome hayseed Christian Prewitt and slimeball boss' son Armand Montfleury. Their attire is workshop Jacobean, the language is modern collegiate, the weapons restricted to pastry-shop confections and the Sapphic subtext barely referenced save by copious eye contact—all contributing to an overall impression of a script removed from the oven half-bak'd ( as one of its characters might say ).

Coming up short of perfection after embarking on an undertaking as ambitious as a makeover of a five-act museum piece is no disgrace, though. When choosing to include discussions based in, say, 17th-century military protocol ( Cyrano and the men are soldiers, by the way ), or Roxanne's genealogical connections to her suitors, Dalberg may have overestimated the average storefront-circuit playgoer's familiarity with the source material, but under the lively direction of Tony Lawry, the agile ensemble delves their text for its rom-com elements—assisted by the playwright, himself, serving in the persona of the factotum Ligniere ( whose name is mocked in ingenious ways ). Some of the literary arrows may have misfired during this first-weekend performance, but Isabella Snow and Brittany Vogel endow Cyrano and Donna's camaraderie with sufficient romance to lend charm to its proverbial rocky road.


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