Edmond Rostand’s classic French play of 1897, Cyrano de Bergerac, is re-envisioned through a post-modern gay lens in Grind Arts Company’s Cyrano: a love letter to a friendship. The triangular story of unrequited love and outward versus inner beauty is now set in contemporary NYC, as roommates Cyrano and Christian both find themselves attracted to Rock (a gender reversal of the original Roxanne), putting their long-term friendship at risk. Emotions get complicated as playwright Sean Peter Drohan explores the true meaning of love in a milieu that outwardly seems to revolve around recreational sex and physical appearance.
Drohan brings an irresistible charm and poignancy to his titular role of Cyrano, a smart, articulate, and average-looking ghostwriter of gay porn who plays the casual dating game but harbors a special love for his best friend. Adam Roberts is the handsome but jobless amateur photographer Christian, who has a good eye for the visual (especially in taking popular portraits for gay social-media sites), but lacks the knowledge and eloquence of his BFF Cyrano and needs his help to discuss with Rock, via messaging, the themes and characters of Candide (a contemporary update of Rostand’s love letters penned by Cyrano, on behalf of Christian, to Roxanne). Judah Frank is appropriately remote and self-centered as the stunning Rock (“an asshole” that “nobody likes”), who temporarily gives each of them what they need, but soon disappoints.
Director Eamon Foley does a good job of balancing the script’s humor, sex, and homoerotic aesthetic with its serious message about the importance of emotional intimacy, support, and understanding for a lasting relationship. While abstract segments of movement and dance, choreographed by Foley, serve in highlighting the training, skills, and well-toned bodies of Roberts and Frank, they add little to the development of the characters and tend to disrupt the flow of the narrative.
Jason Lee Courson’s clever set design and projections employ colorful imagery and over-sized interlocking Lego-style blocks that are easily changed from scene to scene, and that convey the importance of the relationship between Cyrano and Christian, which they’ve been building since childhood.
At times deafeningly loud background music, supervised by PENNYWILD (Penny Wildman), realistically and symbolically captures the high-level intensity of the NYC gay scene, and lighting by Wesley Cornwell effectively shifts with the story’s changing moods.
In a culture where hook-ups come as easy as a click on Grindr, Cyrano lauds the real value of a deep abiding lifelong friendship. There’s no instantaneous digital app for that.
Running Time: 50 minutes, with no intermission.