Tuesday, February 16, 2010

cyrano de bergerac

I know, I was supposed to read Cyrano in high school, along with a bunch of other classic literature. I don't know what to tell you. I didn't.

The version I just read: Cyrano de Bergerac, by Edmond Rostand, translated in verse by poet Brian Hooker, for the actor Walter Hampden, was great. The title page notes this as "An Heroic Comedy in Five Acts" and I guess I'd have to agree, but only up to a point. I think my problem with this description is that it is neither broad, nor deep enough, to encompass all that this little play is.

I felt like I knew the story of Cyrano, from my exposure to it in pop culture. I've paused at the old black and white movies on Sunday afternoons, heard the nose jokes a thousand different times, I saw the Steve Martin/Daryl Hannah movie; Roxanne, the Cyrano movie of my time. I've even read my fair share of plays, even a few of Shakespeare's. And yet, I was still surprised at the depth of character development and feeling Rostand was able to create in so few words. Rostand creates a tone, a mood, that quickly caught me up. It wasn't until the last act, that I focused on the stage direction at the beginning of each act, and realized that these bits were really important. The setting descriptions are fantastic in both their brevity and their ability to set the mood for Rostand's players to tell their story.

I wouldn't normally choose one classic to read after another, never mind take a break from one (Moby-Dick) for another, but that's exactly what I did. Two words: good choice. Read this book.

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