Josh Costello staged a rousing, jovial adaptation of “Cyrano,” bringing an updated take on Edmond Rostand’s play “Cyrano de Bergerac” to the Aurora Theatre on April 13. In a fresh revival that pays homage to the classic, Costello remains faithful to the original’s structure, but remedies its shortcomings.
Costello’s “Cyrano” features a smaller cast of characters, including five key members from the original — Cyrano (William Thomas Hodgson), Count De Guiche (Ron Campbell), Christian (Steven Flores), Roxane (Leontyne Mbele-Mbong) and Le Bret (Adrain Roberts). The modest, ground-level stage the Aurora Theatre Company hosts is expertly enmeshed in Costello’s direction, granting each character the breathing room they demand.
Through humorous audience engagement — one particularly memorable moment occurs when Count de Guiche playfully taps an audience member overhead with his lavishly feathered hat — and the boundaryless movement the performers adopt, the stage becomes a crucial sixth character of the show, allowing the audience to become enraptured by both the performances and the seamless fluidity of the show.
One of the more crucial updates that Costello employs is a revision of the titular romantic counterpart to Cyrano, the ever-mesmerizing and brilliant Roxane. No longer easily swayed by the schemes of Cyrano, Costello’s Roxane has the intellectual agency the original denied her, enabling a nuanced and fresh portrayal that enhances the existing stateliness of her character.
The keystone allure of Roxane’s brilliance flourishes under Costello’s direction, as her wit is on par with that of the poet, Cryano, himself. One would be remiss, however, not to pay proper homage to the resplendence that Mbele-Mbong brings to her performance, bewitching the audience with her undeniable charm.
Mbele-Mbong is not alone in her mastery. Each cast member utterly delights with stunning performances, enrapturing audiences and effortlessly pulling them into Cyrano’s world.
Hodgson’s comedically powerful depiction of Cyrano injects the classic character with a jovial wit, which is enhanced by his brilliant physicality and commanding voice. Within moments of entering the stage, Hodgson steals the attention and hearts of the audience, giving Cyrano’s surly exterior a sympathetic touch.
Not one to be comedically outshone, Campbell employs a regal absurdity in his rendition of De Guiche, waltzing across stage in a whimsical ribboned number with the eccentricity to match. An Aurora Theatre Company veteran, Campbell cements himself as a juggernaut performer keen to execute any given role with endearing renown.
In addition to the outstanding performances from the cast, Costello’s “Cyrano” is wildly indebted to costume designer Maggie Whitaker.
Whitaker’s talent is indisputable in Roxane’s signature gown. Draped in an assortment of intricate patterns and vibrant colors, Roxane debuts on stage in a 17th-century royal blue gown that’s given a modern twist. Rather than clash, the mix of bright yellows, reds, greens and busy patterns work together in a delicate harmony that pulls the audience in with every sweeping movement. Like Cyrano, Christian and De Guiche, the audience is pulled in by Roxane’s splendor.
Whitaker’s keen talent for constructing hidden thematic gestures within her costumes reveals itself most prominently in her subtle choices for Cyrano. Matching the cadence of his undesirable physical appearance, Whitaker dresses Cyrano in an otherwise unremarkable black and red textured overcoat; however, Whitaker’s design acumen reveals itself in the hidden fabric underneath.
When engaged in an energetic sword fight or casting the garment aside in the darkness to disguise as Christian, the hidden fabric of Cyrano’s undercoat can be seen, revealing a bright, cherry-red cloth laden with white flowers. The playful and visually striking fabric can only be glimpsed if one is paying close attention to the intricacies of his ensemble, and similar to Cyrano’s efforts to conceal the truth of his hidden self, the coat offers a visual treat for those willing to look.
A must-see for fans of romance, deception and dark humor, “Cyrano” is a worthwhile show, which runs at the Aurora Theatre Company until May 7. For those unfortunate enough to miss the live performances, a filmed production will be available to stream from May 2 to May 7.