On the nose: Flock Theatre takes on the epic 'Cyrano de Bergerac,' with shows in Westerly and New London
It’s a big show with a big character with a big nose — Cyrano de Bergerac.
And it’s a big return, to a much fuller summer schedule for Flock Theatre, after a pandemic-abridged 2020 season.
The New London-based performing group is staging “Cyrano de Bergerac” for two long weekends at Wilcox Park in New London and then for two long weekends at Mitchell College in New London.
“It’s such an incredibly fun play,” says Flock Executive Artistic Director Derron Wood. “I just keep finding it so unique. I can’t think of another story that’s like it.”
The basic plot for this Edmond Rostand play is this: The title character is a renowned swordsman and poet who is embarrassed by the fact that he has a large nose. He feels too self-conscious to pursue the woman he loves, named Roxane. She is enamored of the handsome but ineloquent Christian. Cyrano agrees to write love letters to Roxane that Christian can pretend are from him.
The tale explores the notion of people hiding who they are, and it shows Roxane falling in love with both men (Cyrano’s words and Christian’s exterior) — but not realizing it’s actually two men.
Wood says that is all so unusual and interesting.
Another intriguing element, he notes, is that Cyrano is based on a real person — someone who, yes, had a huge nose.
The decision to stage “Cyrano” came after Flock did a virtual reading of it, following up on a series of readings performers did of the Shakespeare canon.
“There was such enthusiasm about this play, and so many people knew the story but they had never read the play. So many people know the story but they have never SEEN the play,” says Wood, who is co-directing the production with Flock's Victor Chiburis.
Wood was initially considering having Flock do two plays this summer — until he realized just how big a show “Cyrrano” is.
Its uncut version clocks in around three-and-a-half hours. (Flock’s trimmed version of the Brian Hooker translation is closer to two hours,)
In that uncut version, Act 1 has 40 characters and Act 2 has an additional 40 characters who weren’t in Act 1. Flock has around 20 people in its cast, with some folks taking on multiple roles.
There are battles and swordfights, but there are also different locations and thus sets for each act, from a theater to a pastry shop and street to outside a character’s house to a battlefield to an abbey and cloister.
“It really is a beast of an undertaking — and a lot of fun,” Wood says. “Everyone has just been having a blast in doing it.”
Each act has a different feel to it. The balcony scene in act 3 essentially functions as a romantic comedy. Then, Act 4 is “this epic battlefield last-stand type stuff,” Wood says. “It’s really a beautifully structured play where each act is very unique and very different, with just big, broad choices. … I think it’s written that way so it lives up to the size of not only Cyrano’s nose but the size of the love and the passion and the reality of these characters.”
Feeling like an outsider
One of the elements that appealed about doing “Cyrano” is, Wood says, “the otherness that’s involved with it. Here’s this character, Cyrano, who is, on one level, idolized and worshipped by the people that are around them, but they don’t know him. From the get-go, he’s always been different.”
Wood says he and actor Eric Michaelian, who is playing Cyrano, have discussed how, “when you’re in a situation but you don’t belong, you’re not part of the group, whether it’s internal or whether the group is doing it. I think there are so many communities who can identify with it — you know, the LGBTQ community, the trans population,” Wood says. “Even if you’re in a supportive group, you still feel outside. Cyrano is such a metaphor for that.”
Another aspect of “Cyrano” that reverberates today is presenting a false self to the public.
“I think especially nowadays with elements of social media, there are these huge false personas that are out there … That brings in the new generation, thinking, ‘OK, this is what I’ve got to do.’ it’s about being a personality versus being yourself,” Wood says.
What: “Cyrano de Bergerac”
Who: Flock Theatre
Westerly: 7 p.m. June 24-27, July 1-3, Wilcox Park, 44 Broad St.; free, donations accepted
New London: 7 p.m. July 15-18, 22- 25, Mitchell College Red Barn Lawn, 629-A Montauk Ave.; $20
Bring: Chairs or blankets; no seating provided
For more info: flocktheatre.org