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Cyrano

Ray Boucher as Christian, Morgan Chard as Roxane, and Taylor Doherty as Cyrano.

Ambitious Buffalo Laboratory Theatre has brought their also ambitious adaptation of Cyrano de Bergerac downtown to 710 Main. The abbreviated title, Cyrano, mirrors their scaled down retelling of Edmond Rostand’s endearing 1897 play about a brilliantly eloquent man with an absurdly large nose.

Cyrano is in love with his cousin Roxane, but when he learns that she has her heart set on handsome Christian, he steps aside. More than that, he lends his gift for words to the fair but shallow young man, lurking in the shadows to woo her in the dark, and serving as ghost of writer of innumerable letters from the battlefield.

Through streamlining of the script and doubling of parts, BLT is able to recount this tale of love and sacrifice, created for a cast of more than a dozen, with a cast of only five. The production seeks to emphasize the magic of live performance with its minimal staging and the metaphoric use of aerial performance and music.

The cast is endearing and artful: Katie White, who narrates and takes on numerous comic minor roles, is always a delight; Ray Boucher, who plays both beautiful Christian and horrible Comte de Guiche, creates pleasing comic versions of each; Morgan Chard is elegant and charismatic as lovely Roxane; and Taylor Doherty plays Cyrano with sincerity and panache, and has also directed this inventive production. Kathleen Golde performs her own aerial choreography and assumes small roles.

The imaginative staging is largely successful. The wounds in a battle are indicated with flourishes of red scarves. Roxane’s balcony is evoked with a simple screen. Numerous locations are suggested with bold pieces of red drapery. Live music punctuates comic and dramatic moments. Actors change into new characters with simple variations of costume and voice.

The evening begins with an incantation in which the narrator evokes the magic of live theater—a feat of enchantment that could be accomplished far more wondrously by showing rather than telling. We see the light; we see the addition of color; we hear the music. Why do we need to be told about it? (This evocation includes a summoning of the ghosts of 710 Main that I found distracting in its inaccuracies. Neither Colleen Dewhurst nor Glenn Close ever walked across that stage; they appeared across the street at what is now the Town Ballroom. The most wondrous ghosts to perform in that space might well be the long-forgotten strippers and comics who headlined at the Palace Burlesque.)

Ms. Golde’s aerial work is thrilling in its daring. It is not entirely integrated into the piece as a metaphor for the characters’ plight in the way of, say, “Tick Tock Dance” staged for Donna McKechnie by Michael Bennett as a metaphor for frustrated love in Company, or Bob Fosse’s dance of unsuccessful and successful lovemaking in Pippin. Nonetheless, when you’ve got an unusual skill, why not flaunt it? The effort adds to the sensational fun of Rostand’s story.

The timeless story of Cyrano and his selfless love for Roxane continues at 710 Main through February 23.