He may be famous for his abnormally large schnozzola, but there is more to the memorable character of Cyrano de Bergerac. And the multiple layers of his personality will be revealed when Theatreworks presents the extravagantly costumed play that bears his name, starting Thursday in the Dusty Loo Bon Vivant Theater at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.
"One of my favorite lines from the play is, 'Such a proboscis is the mark of a great soul,' says actor Khris Lewin, who plays Cyrano. "He is carrying around all of this anger within him from his deformity, but he covers up his pain in the most brilliant, funny ways."
Cyrano, a 17th-century nobleman in the French army, is also the greatest swordsman and poet in France. But both his will and talent are overshadowed by self-doubt; he believes his physical ugliness prevents him from "dreaming of being loved by even an ugly woman."
Cyrano is deeply in love with his beautiful cousin — yes, cousin — Roxanne, but because of his insecurities, he is incapable of revealing his feelings for her. Roxanne, meanwhile, is smitten by Christian, a young soldier graced with Adonis-like looks. Since Christian lacks the wit to woo Roxanne, he and Cyrano make a pact to tempt her with Cyrano's words and Christian's looks.
"I think the reason Cyrano de Bergerac has been so popular is because we can all relate to him," says Lewin. "Everyone has something that makes us feel less than. It doesn't matter what it is. I'm short and bald, so I understand."
Lewin, a 37-year-old based out of New York City, was picked to play Cyrano by Murray Ross, who directs the 24-member cast. The two have worked together in the past — Ross, in fact, directed Lewin to a Pikes Peak Arts Council Best Actor award in Hamlet last year — and are used to challenging each other artistically, says Lewin.
That challenge births "one of the best choreographed sword fights you'll ever see," says Lewin. (Note: It's not between him and Ross.)
For those otherwise unfamiliar with the canonized work, Lewin offers a half-spoiler: "Cyrano does get the girl in the end, but not in the way you think."