Bec Willett is an Australian, Chicago-based director, designer, educator, and writer. She has worked on projects with an array of Chicago theater companies, including 20% Theatre, Chicago Dramatists, City Lit, Dandelion Theatre, Prologue Theatre, and Waltzing Mechanics. To find out more about her work and upcoming projects, please visit becwillett.com.
Pictured: Michael Dalberg, Nicola Rinow, and Tim Lee. Photo by Laura Maloney.
By Bec Willett
Whether it’s the political climate or just something in the air, the panache and poetry of Edmund Rostand’s classic CYRANO DE BERGERAC seems to be making a comeback. The latest adaptation is by Theatre Above the Law, a company aimed at bringing classic plays such as this “to the community in a way that audiences can identify with.” Featuring sparse snippets of the original verse amid contemporary language, their take features a woman in the title role with the goal of exploring body dysmorphia and gender roles.
With after school classes, a young performer program, and a mission focused on making classics relatable, Theatre Above The Law’s focus is clearly an educational one. CYRANO is evidence of that.
At 90 minutes, this adaptation hits most of the major plot points – the fight over Cyrano’s nose, Roxanne’s infatuation with Christian, Cyrano’s unrequited love and sacrifice in aiding the unpoetic Christian in his seduction. Featuring a bare-bones set of rehearsal blocks, minimal sound and lighting it’s the kind of show you imagine touring to schools who are studying the text. While warm and funny, the performances and direction are full of tropes, all subtext on the surface, the focus on storytelling rather than the intricacies of relationship or in-depth commentary.
It may be entertaining to watch breadstick duels and awkward confessions of love but with this CYRANO I couldn’t help but be left wanting. The ideas are there – especially those surrounding body image. However, they’re not ones I’m sure I would have found without the aid of the director’s notes, and even if I did, without the complex realization of characters I’m not sure I would have identified enough to be able to feel their impact.
Theatre Above the Law’s CYRANO is a light, somewhat simplistic production which is focused on entertainment and plot rather than exploring complexity and comment.
CYRANO runs through March 4th. For more information visit www.theatreatl.org.