Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
Since Cyrano, in Rostand's play, is as agile with words as he is with a rapier, how can a nonverbal adaptation convey his magic? Vato Tsikurishvili simply transmutes the character's eloquence into movement, bringing a dreamlike quality to the action. (Remember, this is the company that, later this season, will present the 14th in its series of wordless adaptations of William Shakespeare's plays.)
The director also borrows from the tradition of clowns and the masks used in Renaissance-era commedia dell'arte, to tell the story. Cyrano's notoriously long nose is part of a mask, which means it can also appear on the other performers' faces at one point.
The story follows the outlines of Rostand's original, with the necessary simplifications. Cyrano has been in love with the beautiful Roxanne (Maryam Najafzada) since they were children together; she loves Cyrano like a brother but falls for the handsome but hapless Christian (Matt R. Stover), a fellow soldier in his company; Cyrano sublimates his love for Roxanne on Christian's behalf, writing her love letters and signing the other man's name; and, many years later, she discovers the truth.
All this takes place on Phil Charlwood's circus-inspired set with Brian S. Allard's vivid lighting design and Alison Samantha Johnson's costumes. Konstantine Lortkipanidze, resident composer and sound designer, has crafted a wide-ranging score that shifts from a simple melody for the opening childhood scene to cool jazz, to elements of "Swan Lake" and Charlie Chaplin's song "Smile," to 1950s rock-and-roll.
Vato Tsikurishvili and his mother and choreographer Irina have created some wondrous images. Roxanne, in this version a ballerina, dances en pointe as feathers fall from her tutu like snow; De Guiche (Philip Fletcher), Cyrano and Christian's commanding officer, is a pompous fellow who commands his troops with a duck call; a cascade of letters appears in the form of fluttering birds on wires, controlled by the figure of Time (Ana Tsikurishvili); Cyrano, at one point, builds up Christian's confidence by literally inflating him like a balloon. It's intoxicating.