Panache-post 4: opening
“I will be loved for who I am, or not at all!” –
Christian de Neuvilette, Cyrano act 3.
In my most recent book, The Deception of Surfaces, there is a little refrain: it’s not the wrapping that matters; it’s the gift inside. It seems to me this is at the center of Cyrano too. A man, tormented by some unfortunate wrapping, is nevertheless a once-in-a-lifetime gift: a heroic poet, lover and friend. Another man, blessed with exquisite wrapping, is possessed of more ordinary expressive powers. A woman falls in love – with who?
This play is an incisive and timely message for us. Don’t be seduced by what you see. Allow time and relationship to reveal what lies beneath, and more often than not, you will find something there that speaks from heart to heart. It’s not just a pretty romantic idea. It has life and death consequences. I believe this. People die, as they do in the play, because of an inability to be seen for who they really are, to be loved and cherished for the gifts they do posses and forgiven for those they don’t. How tragic it is that people – especially young people like Christian in the play and Alice in my book – feel they must pretend to be someone they are not in order to be loved.
And how tragic that those of us who are heavy, flat-chested, paunchy, plain, toothy, too tall, too short, too bald, too whatever, how tragic that we are marginalized, bullied and mocked in a world which makes a fetish of appearances. It’s a fetish which is now controlled by commerce, and the shapes and images we worship – the wrapping we adore – are designed to make us buy products. In this way, our addiction to what we see turns people into things. For our hero with the big nose, I doubt commerce was at fault as much as it is today. But the fact that Rostand created such an enduring character in the early 20th century, a character from in the 17th century, testifies to the timeless aspect of this addiction.
What is it that we love? Ultimately, our play tells us, it’s something we can’t see. It’s a faithfulness in spite of time and hardship; a stubbornness in spite of heartbreak and disappointment; a soft and vulnerable attachment, like the grip of a newborn, in a world of thorns and warfare.
I play your nemesis, Cyrano. But I salute you, and share in your character in ways you will never know. Have a great opening night.