By Michael Bouchard, cast member of Cyrano
Comedy from centuries past tends not to fare well today. This is due to the fact that it isn’t funny anymore. For instance, Shakespeare wrote in Twelfth Night: FABIAN: Sowter will cry upon’t for all this, though it be as rank as a fox.
I’ll let you pause to catch your breath from the laughter.
I know what you’re thinking: “That line makes no sense.” Even if you knew that the context was about Sowter’s opinion of bad poetry, you’d still be hard-pressed to imagine how it could be funny. If you don’t know all the context, syntax, and vernacular language of the day, it looks like drivel.
But if you knew that “out upon it” can mean a positive/surprised “No Way!” and can be contracted to “upon’t”, and that “rank as a fox” means “smells like crap”, you can begin to imagine what Michael Hollinger and Aaron Posner would do if they got their hands on it. The line might read:
FABIAN: Sowter would yell “Incredible!” Even though it’s crap.
Now we know what’s being said! It also fits our current vernacular without losing the playwright’s intention for the line, or the style. Most importantly, it’s funny again.
All this is what Hollinger and Posner have achieved with the humor in this adaptation of the tale of Cyrano de Bergerac. Their script is funnier than Rostand’s original would be to our ears, yet it loses none of the point, and less of the poetry than you might think, without feeling pretentious. If you are a lover of poetry and wordplay, this modern adaptation will give you much to feast on.
And when it comes to the comedy, this production of Cyrano has an ace up its sleeve: The entire cast.
When you ask an ensemble to play multiple roles, you’re going to want flexible actors who can jump from fully realized character to fully realized character, rapidly. Almost as a rule, people who are elastic with their physicality, the pace of their speech, and the tone of their voice are good at comedy. Comedy often relies on understanding rhythms of speech (we call this “timing”) or outrageous physical gags (Jim Carrey comes to mind). When it comes to comedy, this cast knows its stuff.
Every single cast member gets their moment to tickle your funny bone, and not a one fails to deliver. It may be hammy, or it may be subtle. Be it Sammie Joe Kinnett giving you characters you’ll be laughing at for days, or Brian Shea breaking his handsome resolve to deliver a scene of unexpected hilarity, you will find jokes of all kinds to make you laugh, no matter your tastes in comedy. We do it all, even puns (the very lowest form of comedy).
Despite all the humor, this is no fluff piece of cream pies and banana peels. Comedy is best when it’s connected to real situations and powerful desires. When the stakes are highest, you have the possibility of great humor and great drama. In Cyrano, every member of the ensemble plays their desires to their fullest. This grounds the humor, and in fact, makes it all funnier, because the situation matters so much to every character onstage.
Stephen Weitz as Cyrano is pretty good too. He might have a career in this if he keeps at it. We’re all rooting for him.
We’re all also rooting for you to come and have a brilliant night at the theater, enjoying the humor in this classic tale well worth sharing with your friends.