Venial sinner

Don Juan

By Molière; adaptation by Gregory Maupin
Directed by Rene Migliacciao
Stages of Learning
Equity showcase (closed)
Lion Theatre
Review by Seth Bisen-Hersh

Molière's Don Juan is about lechery and hypocrisy, and punishment for these crimes. Stages of Learning's new production had its moments, but failed to convince the audience that Don Juan truly deserved his dire fate.

Don Juan follows the title character's exploits. Well-known for using women, falsely marrying them, and then disposing of them, he is not liked. His current faux wife, Dona Elvire, implores Don Juan to at least come up with a reasonable excuse for dismissing her. He will not, and her brothers set out to get their vengeance. Don Juan's devoted servant, Sganarelle, follows Don Juan to an island; throughout the play, he acts sort of as Don Juan's cowardly conscience trying to convince him to repent.

While trying to avoid him, Don Juan inadvertently saves the life of one of Dona Elvire's brothers, who spares his life in exchange. However, the brother still wishes Don Juan would realize the evil of his ways. In fact, even a visit from his father, who has grown ashamed of him; a creditor whom he refuses to pay back; and finally a statue coming to life fail to convince Don Juan to change his evil ways. He fakes repentance in order to invoke the name of God whenever he wants to justify his evil doings. (Now that's a contemporary theme....)

Gregory Maupin's adaptation feels very modernized. It has its moments and managed to produce some good laughs; however, unlike most Molière adaptations, there is no magic with words -- no rhythm, rhymes, alliterations, etc. The reverse casting of men/women did little for the show, since they retained the sexes in the actual script. As long as Don Juan is male, it mattered not that a female played him.

The cast is the best part of the show. All five were energetic and vibrant, with incredible facial expressions. April Cantor was larger than life as Don Juan. T. Scott Lilly was feisty and dynamic as Sganarelle. Yvette Feuer stood out extremely well in her many smaller roles; she showed much spunk. Liz Turkel, who played only male characters, was powerful and melodramatic. Finally, Andrea Perlin, in two tiny roles, made the most of them, and gave a brash, brassy performance.

The direction, by Rene Migliaccio, created a lot of good physical comedy and physical acting. There were many added beats and gasps and blinks that added a lot to the show. The set, by Russell Michael Schramm, was basically a few chairs and a drop cloth claiming that Don Juan is full of seduction, adventure, and peril, which sadly it's not. Mario V. Leite's period costume design was adequate. And the lights, by Russel Drapkin, and sound (mostly Spanish clips between scenes), by Margaret Pine, were also up to the mark.

Unfortunately, even with an animated cast, Don Juan's crimes are not so bad given today's standards, so it is hard for today's audiences to get into this play. And without the magical dialog associated with Molière, it is just overall dull.

  Box Score:

Writing: 1
Directing: 1
Acting: 2
Set: 1
Costumes: 1
Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 2004 Seth Bisen-Hersh