Despite the famous fellow in the title, "Cyrano de Bergerac" is really a three-sided romantic tragedy.
Of course, Edmond Rostand's big, old-fashioned 19th century heartbreaker is most beloved for its depiction of a beautiful soul trapped behind Cyrano's giant nose. For the full effect, however, this needs to be a genuine trio of love, with a heroine, Roxane, who deserves such adoration, and an inarticulate young rival, Christian, whose great looks can almost charm a girl into not missing the pretty talk.
The revival at the American Airlines Theatre has just one of the three requisites -- Douglas Hodge as a kind and rather rough-hewn Cyrano. Alas, in most other ways, this is a busy, generic production with a Roxane (Clémence Poésy, imported from France) and a Christian (Kyle Soller, an American working in London) who hardly register onstage with all the swashbuckling Gascons, pastry cooks and ruffians.
Hodge, the multilayered British actor who won a Tony in 2010 as the aging drag queen in "La Cage aux Folles," makes a sweet, tender knockabout of a Cyrano. Unlike Kevin Kline, so stylishly heartsick with Jennifer Garner in the superior 2007 Broadway revival, Hodge goes more for a scruffy spaniel facade -- a tears-of-a-clown portrayal of the nobility behind literature's classic homely face.
The lopsided production, staged by British director Jamie Lloyd with standard-issue sets and costumes, does have another attribute on the side. Patrick Page, whose sophisticatedly evil Green Goblin was the only clever part of "Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark," brings both menace and surprising poignancy to the imperious selfish letch, Comte de Guiche. With a voice that seems to slither up from the bottom of a dark mine and classical experience beyond his Grinch and evil Uncle Scar in "The Lion King," Page goes so far beyond the cardboard outlines of this villain that we wish the play were about Cyrano and him.
The translation by Ranjit Bolt is unpleasantly fixed on exclamations of excrement. For a play about loving words and a hero for whom bad poetry is a fighting offense, this just feels wrong.
WHAT "Cyrano de Bergerac"
WHERE American Airlines Theatre, 227 W. 42nd St.
INFO $42-$137; 212-719-1300; roundabouttheatre.org