Cyrano de Bergerac is the hero we need right now
We live in a time of anger, bitter political division and pettiness. Enter the antidote: “Cyrano de Bergerac.”
“Social media risks splintering society.” “Vanity Fair called out for suggesting Hillary Clinton take up knitting.” “Crimes that dominated headlines in 2017.” “Plastic Surgery While Pregnant? Khloe Kardashian’s Lips Look Huge on Secret Outing.”
If there’s anything to glean from a scan through recent news headlines, it’s that we live in a time of anger, bitter political division and pettiness. Enter the antidote: “Cyrano de Bergerac.”
Edmond Rostand’s 1897 play is chock full of honor, compassion and panache—qualities we often forget to prioritize both in person and on social media, and traits we seldom see world leaders embodying today. And that’s exactly why director Christopher DuVal wanted to stage it for the Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s 2018 season.
“What a timely play it is right now, in our particular social and political climate,” DuVal says. “That relentless, lifelong pursuit of what’s true, right and honorable, which is so prevalent in ‘Cyrano,’ is something we need to see more of.”
Like a mashup of “Romeo and Juliet,” “The Three Musketeers” and “The Princess Bride,” “Cyrano” is a big, bold, romantic adventure boasting swoon-worthy overtures, clever wordplay and thrilling swordplay. Its title character, witty and proud but crippled by insecurity thanks to his abnormally large nose, is desperately in love with his friend Roxanne—but instead of confessing his feelings, he goes to great lengths to help another man woo her.
Nearly everyone has had trouble overcoming their own insecurities in the pursuit of romance, DuVal says—which makes “Cyrano” a delightfully relatable play.
“We all have our own images of ourselves, fears of how we’re being perceived,” DuVal says. “Are we good enough to be seen and heard and loved by someone else? I’ve definitely had my own struggles with that. I think we all have. That’s what makes this play so great.”
DuVal’s first brush with “Cyrano” was at the tender age of 19, when he played the title character in a California Youth Theatre production. The Los Angeles Times heralded it as “a remarkable performance for one so young,” but DuVal himself believes it would be difficult even for someone twice that age to do the role justice.
“That role is a huge mountain to climb, and I was probably 30 or 40 years too young,” he says. “But I found it hugely moving. It inspired me to embrace Cyrano’s qualities, like commitment to honoring others and speaking the truth despite the costs, in my own life.”
To DuVal, no one embodies those qualities more than his chosen leading man, Scott Coopwood. The two worked together last year on CSF’s “The Taming of the Shrew,” with DuVal as director and Coopwood as the strong-willed but big-hearted Petruchio. It quickly became clear to DuVal that Coopwood wasn’t afraid to lay his feelings bare to close friends and acquaintances alike, both in and out of rehearsal, and he admired that vulnerability.
“Scott and Cyrano are intermixed in my mind already,” DuVal says. “Scott has that strength and quick-wittedness, but he’s also going to bring such depth of heart and compassion to the role.”
To deliver lines like “I love you beyond the limits that love sets itself” with unbridled passion, and without a hint of irony or humor, is difficult work. And to do it in an age where snark is de rigeur and people downplay their emotions with the phrase “all the feels” seems radically courageous.
DuVal likes to wonder what the world would look like if we all spoke so frankly and selflessly. What if all our declarations of love were like Cyrano’s—not manipulative or lustful or self-serving, but just pure, unadulterated thoughts from the heart? It’s not outside the realm of possibility, given Cyrano is a mere mortal like the rest of us—his character is even based on a real-life man of the same name.
“I think Cyrano is such a moving character because he’s not a superhero,” DuVal says. “He has his own struggles and doubts and complexities. This is a gorgeous, stirring, funny, heart-wrenching play about what it means to be a human being.”