Monday, September 1, 2008

To be Cyrano de Bergerac

This past evening I went to see a production of Edmond Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac, which was put on in Schiller Park here in Columbus. I was familiar with the play from seeing the film version, starring Gerard Depardieu, in high school. This was free theater so I did not have too high expectations. While most of the actors were fairly mediocre, John Beeker, who played the title role, was outstanding. I would definitely pay good money to see him perform. The music was also very good. (It was taken from Cirque du Soleil’s KA.)

Cyrano de Bergerac (a real historical figure) is about a swashbuckling seventeenth century swordsman (A character similar to Alexander Dumas’ three musketeers and, more recently, Arturo Perez-Reverte’s Captain Alatriste.) His sword is only matched by his wit and his skills as a poet, something he puts to good use in the play’s opening as he dispatches an opponent with his sword while composing a ballad to commemorate the occasion. Standing in Cyrano’s way are his tendency to speak his mind and thumb his nose at the rich and powerful, thus making for himself many enemies, and his literal long nose, which disfigures his face. Because of his nose Cyrano finds himself unable to pursue his love, his cousin Roxane, for fear that she will laugh at him. Instead of pursuing her directly, he comes to do so indirectly when he befriends Christian, a fellow soldier in his company, who has also fallen in love with Roxane. Christian has a beautiful face, but lacks the necessary skill with words to win Roxane. Enter Cyrano to fill the void; he writes the needed love letters and poems for Christian and even coaches him on what things to say to her. Cyrano and Christian make a perfect team; Christian provides the face and Cyrano provides the mouth. Unfortunately for Cyrano, though, it is Christian’s lips that get to kiss Roxane while he has to stand by as the loyal friend and watch.

As with most great characters, one comes to identify oneself with the Cyrano in a very personal way. I see a lot of myself in Cyrano or at least see in Cyrano something that I could and should be. Cyrano is highly intelligent, witty, charming and likeable individual, who tends to offend people. He is someone full of principles/pride and will sacrifice everything for them, though it is not always clear which one he is standing for. He is someone with a noble romantic soul with the capacity to love in ways that few can. Yet for all this he is doomed in love because of his deformity, his nose. Cyrano’s nose, though, is really a stand in for the injuries in Cyrano’s own mind. It is he who thinks of himself as ugly and incapable of pursuing love. While Cyrano’s nose holds him back it is also what allows him to love as intently as he does in the first place. One suspects that if Cyrano would not have become the gallant swordsman and romantic if he had been born with a regular nose. It is his nose that isolates him and makes him feel as intently as he does. Like Cyrano I am witty, intelligent and charming, though I do tend to put these gifts to use by thumbing my nose at convention and playing by my own rules. While I am likable, I do tend to offend people. I think in terms of duty and obligation; I believe that I owe people a debt for their friendship. I have learned the hard way, though, that other people do not think in terms of duty and obligation and therefore do not feel they owe me anything for my friendship. I have a pretty enough face, but in the end I am also scarred. Not by my nose but by my depression and Asperger Syndrome. These things have stopped me from finding love. It is a pattern that has repeated itself several times already, the last time just recently, where a woman has been attracted to me by my wit and charm only to flee as soon as she came to see my depression and Asperger Syndrome and how it affects my life. The irony here is that I owe the wit and charm that attracted them in the first place to the same depression and Asperger Syndrome that robs me in the end. My wit and charm is simply the light side of my depression and Asperger Syndrome and is as much a part of them as the dark side which people have no difficulty labeling as such. My depression and Asperger Syndrome isolate me and keep me away from love but my isolation serves also to make me acutely aware of love and my need for it. I look hungrily at all the normal people out there who seem to have little difficulty with love yet fail to truly appreciate it. I wonder what it would be like to be normal. Utterly boring, I suspect, though they do, by and large, seem to be happy.

At one point in the play Cyrano is challenged whether he is being Don Quixote, fighting windmills. I have, in my time, been faced with that challenge. As much as I may love the musical the Man of La Mancha, I have no wish to be Don Quixote. I will settle for being Cyrano de Bergerac.

2 comments:

Beyond Gemilas Chesed said...

Poor Izgad, searching for love that, as yet, alludes him. You do know that there are millions of people in the world without Asburgers or depression that also cannot find their soul mates, right? My cousin (who has manic-depresssion) married a great girl who has a similar pathology. They have their challenges, but they certainly appreciate and understand each other's issues and have chosen to deal with them together. Perhaps you are attracted to an idealized woman type that you perceive as "flawless"?

Izgad said...

Yes I do recognize that not everything is fine and dandy for neurotypicals. I do hope to find love and I still have faith that it could happen.