Holding out for a hero

The lunchtime audience in the Chicago Cultural Center theater (legal occupancy: 249) was small (18 attendees plus five panelists), but the question was big: “Is Cyrano a Hero?”

Thomas Pavel, chair of Romance languages & literature at Chicago, hosted the discussion, held in conjunction with the Redmoon Theatre/Court Theatre production at the Museum of Contemporary Art, where it has received rave reviews—the Chicago Tribune called it a “richly provocative interpretation of a classic” with “a visual environment resembling a 19th-century puppet show gone mad.”

Responding to the intimacy of the group, Pavel and his panelists—Court artistic director Charles Newell, dramaturg Sarah Gubbins, translator Mickle Maher, and Allen Gilmore, who portrays Cyrano—abandoned table, chairs, and microphones to perch on the edge of the stage as they dissected the heroic mettle of Cyrano de Bergerac, French dramatist Edmond Rostand’s larger-than-life protagonist with larger-than-life proboscis.

Although everyone agreed with Pavel that “Cyrano is a hero with a flaw,” they found the flaw harder to pin down. “In these self-activated times,” Newell said, Cyrano can come across as “a coward, an idiot,” unable to accept Roxane’s love. Dramaturg Gubbins and translator Maher emphasized the idealistic nature of Cyrano’s personality and passion. “He can’t be with Roxane,” said Maher, “because if he were, he wouldn’t be Cyrano.” And Gilmore saw him as a wise man made a fool by love: “He does things around her he just can’t help.”

The third and final session of the We’re Talkin’ Classics symposium series, “The Language of Words: Conceiving and Creating CYRANO,” takes place on the day of the play’s last performance, Sunday, June 27, at the Museum of Contemporary Art.


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Photos: just another love story? Cyrano looks on as Roxane looks away(left); a larger-than-life protagonist with a larger-than-life proboscis (middle); Christian speaks Cyrano’s words of love for Roxane (right).

Photos by Michael Brosilow.

June 16, 2004