OFFBEAT: 'Cyrano' at Chicago Shakespeare a long story stretch

Phil Potempa's daily entertainment news column
2013-10-07T00:00:00Z OFFBEAT: 'Cyrano' at Chicago Shakespeare a long story stretchBy Philip Potempa, (219) 852-4327

The story of "Cyrano de Bergerac" has always been one of my stage favorites.

Cyrano is a man with zest for life and romance so apparent, it really is a plain as the long Bob Hope slope nose, that is his despised focal point of his face.

Chicago Shakespeare Theater has "Cyrano de Bergerac" as the launch its 2013-14 Season.

CST's new production of Edmond Rostand's timeless classic, adapted and translated by Anthony Burgess, marks the return to CST of director Penny Metropulos and film and stage actor Harry Groener, the duo behind the theater's award-winning 2011 production of "The Madness of George III."

But clocking at more than 3 hours, this is a production that had me squirming and looking at my watch for some moments of what should have been pure rapture, entertainment and romance. It's continuing its run in CST's Courtyard Theater through Nov. 10.

"Cyrano de Bergerac" tells the tale of the iconic nobleman whose gift for romance is shadowed by his all-too-prominent nose. Feeling unworthy of the love of his beautiful cousin Roxane, Cyrano uses his intellect and style wooing her for his comrade Christian to heart-wrenching effect.

There's no doubt Groener gives this role his all. But still, I never found myself caught up in the whirlwind of love and excitement that should certainly capture the hearts, minds and imagination of an audience. A production of "Cyrano" I caught in Chicago in 2011 offered scenes, sword play and romance moments I still recall in my mind today. This latest incarnation now at Navy Pier is lesser than more for my recollection.

Some of my missing magic likely comes from the void I felt with actress Julie Jesneck, making her CST debut as love interest Roxane. As the show hit the final moments of the third hour, it felt to me that Jesneck was spent and had lost all the steam needed to propel this famed duo's reckoning of romantic inner-woven worlds.

Metropulos return for this directing assignment at CST follows after her critical raves (mine included) for her last production of "The Madness of King George III."

On the subject of madness, I wasn't quite so crazy about the wigs and make-up design for this production by Melissa Veal. Something seems lacking. But Kevin Depinet's scenic design, with lofty balconies and tiered levels is a masterpiece, as are the costumes by Susan E. Mickey. Still, even these latter bonus points aren't even to reward this more than three hour marathon, with a finale death scenes that seems infinite.

Tickets for Chicago Shakespeare Theater's "Cyrano de Bergerac" are $58–$78 with special discounts available for groups of 10 or more, as well as CST for $20 tickets available for patrons under 35. All patrons receive a 40 percent discount on guaranteed parking in Navy Pier garages. FYI: (312) 595-5600 or visit

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at or (219) 852-4327.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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