Were Cyrano de Bergerac and his adored Roxanne to do some retrospection in the hereafter, they would surely admit to having comically bungled their love lives. Smitten with Roxanne, the long-nosed Cyrano ghostwrites letters for his own romantic rival. Roxanne overlooks the devotion of the selfless Cyrano. With such relationship management approximating sheer tomfoolery, it makes sense for Synetic Theater’s wordless “Cyrano de Bergerac” to take as its touchstone the imagery of the clown.
Vato Tsikurishvili directs this irresistibly droll and poignant production, which uses Nathan Weinberger’s adaptation of Edmond Rostand’s play. The latest in Synetic’s series of wordless adaptations of literary classics, the show frolics in jewel tones, with movement, dance, ingenious prop use and piquant stage business teasing out the story.
When the original lead actor left the cast shortly before opening, director Tsikurishvili took over the title role. He has risen to the challenge: His expressive, sharply defined, funny yet woebegone Cyrano fits so seamlessly into the action, you’d never know he was a substitute actor.
Sporting handsome commedia dell’arte-inspired costumes by Alison Samantha Johnson, all the clown characters look at home on Phil Charlwood’s fantastical ramp-and-circus-ball set. The metatheatrics don’t stop with the big-top and commedia motifs: Roxanne is a professional dancer in this version of the story. Playing the character in a tutu and clown nose, the endearing Maryam Najafzada does a sendup of a “Swan Lake” solo, shedding a snowstorm of feathers.
In another delightful bit, Roxanne pertly bats away air kisses blown by de Guiche (Philip Fletcher), the swaggering military officer who will lead Cyrano and others to war. The show’s now-
romantic, now-ominous score, by composer/sound designer Konstantine Lortkipanidze, nods to jazz, tango, synthesizer dreamscapes, and more.
As Roxanne’s chosen suitor, Christian, Matt Stover hits the right note of dimwit charm. The figure (in a white Pierrot outfit) is an apt foil for the melancholy, brilliant Cyrano. In a hilarious sequence, Christian and Cyrano simultaneously write letters to Roxanne. Christian moves jerkily, crumples up page after page, and bangs his head on his desk. Yards away, Cyrano’s pen rushes across the paper with such inspired eloquence that the letter glides up the surface of a nearby wall, the genius’s hand still smoothly scribbling as his arm stretches over his head.
Adding a valuable sinister undercurrent to the narrative (which could stand to be tightened by a couple of minutes), the excellent Ana Tsikurishvili plays Time, a figure decked out in crazed steampunk-Harlequin garb, whose arms often rotate like menacing clock hands.
With Time such a forceful presence, it’s no surprise that we eventually see Cyrano and Roxanne in old age. The affecting scene makes clear that the two still have a deep connection. If only they could do as Synetic has: capitalize on the opportunity.
Cyrano de Bergerac, based on the play by Edmond Rostand, adapted by Nathan Weinberger. Directed by Vato Tsikurishvili. Choreography, Irina Tsikurishvili; lighting design, Brian S. Allard. With Anne Flowers. 100 minutes. $20-$50. Through March 10 at 1800 S. Bell St., Arlington. synetictheater.org. 866-811-4111.