January 02, 2008

Heartening reminders

From Christopher Isherwood's review yesterday of Kevin Kline's "ultimately, and happily, triumphant" year on stage:
...his Cyrano is utterly free of self-regarding, starry showboating. The quiet delicacy he brings to the role graces it with a fine sense of psychological truth. Beneath the feathered hats and slicing swordplay, Mr. Kline creates an affecting portrait of a man whose passionate nature is channeled, at painful cost, into a lifetime of determined self-sacrifice and unspoken devotion.

Such a virtuous path feels radically out of step with our self-regarding times, in which it is assumed that every 12-year-old in the country should broadcast his or her likes, dislikes, friends, enemies and distant crushes to the world of the Web. ...

The roster of plays regularly recycled for major productions seems to be narrowing by the year as audiences are assumed to be ignorant of — and indifferent to — anything without a brand-name writer attached to it, preferably an American of 20th-century vintage or an Elizabethan hailing from Stratford. The popular success of Mr. Kline’s “Cyrano” stands as a heartening reminder that the sometimes denigrated power of a star name can be put to healthy use, allowing a play to retain its hard-earned stature as an enduring popular classic, to shake off the dust and live to fight another day. Edmond Rostand may not be Shakespeare, and “Cyrano” is no “Lear,” but for three delicious hours Mr. Kline made me forget that.

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