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Don Juan

Brad Heberlee as Sganarelle and Chris Mixon as the Statue  (Photo credit: Russ Rowland)

                  by Deirdre Donovan

Don Juan--that legendary lover who faked many a marriage-can now be glimpsed on the Pearl Theatre’s boards.  And with Justin Adams slipping into the skin of Moliere’s most hypocritical lover, one should seize the day and go to this new mounting that proves that love is no trifle.

The story was originally penned by the Spanish dramatist Tirso de Molina around 1630 (the year of its publication) and has been told --and retold--in countless versions over the centuries.  But Moliere’s 1665 lampooning of the legend has become a classic—and decidedly leans into its comic energies.  True to form, his Don Juan pulls the wool over many women’s eyes by marrying them in jest and going on his merry way.  In Jess Burkle’s smart new adaptation of Moliere’s play, the dramatist’s text has been retooled and peppered with au courant sayings.  Yes, you will hear that familiar adage, “What goes around comes around” in this revamped work.  And what’s more, you will see it gain theatrical steam and ultimately become Don Juan’s fate.

Although Sganarelle has long been considered the plum role in this farce (Moliere himself played the part), this Don Juan reshifts the dramatic weight to the titular character, played superbly by Adams. Outfitted in a skin-tight metallic-colored outfit, complete with mythic wings on his jacket’s shoulders, Adams is ideally cast as the trickster here.  With his muscled physique, swashbuckling manner, and philosophic air, Adams’ Don Juan comes across like a New York dude who has just walked into a fashionable pub and is on the look-out for his next female prey.

Isabella Curti as Charlotte and Justin Adams as Don Juan  (Photo credit: Russ Rowland)

There are hit-and-miss performances turned in by other performers.  To wit:  Brad Heberlee as Don Juan’s servant Sganarelle manages to milk the comedy from his scenes but doesn’t fully tap into the comic predicament of his character who must be loyal to a morally-calloused cad.  Those who saw his memorable Waffles in the Pearl’s production of Uncle Vanya will find him less effective here as the befuddled Sganarelle.  Jolly Abraham fares better.  Her Donne Elvire is one spit-fire of a fallen nun and betrayed woman.  Though she doesn’t steal the show, she does a fine job chewing the scenery.  The rest of the ensemble—Isabella Curti (Charlotte/Beggar/ Violette), Pete McElligott (Pierrot/Don Carlos), and Chris Mixon (Gusman/Mathurine/ Mr. Sabbath/ Don Louis) – work their multiple characters, more or less, to effect.  And, if nobody really stands out in the supporting cast, it’s that Adams is the real stage-taker here and edges the other performers into his shadow.

The creative team guarantees that this classic tale keeps its spice intact.  Harry Feiner’s set has a classical look with dilapidated columns strewn about the performing space.  There’s a recessed and slightly-raised platform area toward the back wall, where much to-ing and fro-ing takes place.   In fact, the Stone Statue (Chris Mixen plays the haunted figure to the comic hilt) makes his first dramatic appearance here and the incorrigible Don Juan his final exit into Hades.   Feiner’s stage paraphernalia amusingly includes an iPhone, which a character conveniently takes out of his pocket to shoot a picture of the Stone Statue for posterity.  No, the high-tech gadget doesn’t blend in with the rest of the set or props.  But it certainly gets a smile from the audience.

Peter West’s protean lighting design enhances whatever episode is unfolding, and is at its best, when spotlighting the rascal Don Juan or casting light on the Stone Statue in its various manifestations. Anya Klepikov’s costumes add terrific texture to this production.  Klepikov adds pizzazz to the period costumes with inventive touches that allows each character to have one foot in the past and the other in the present-day.  From the aforementioned flashy outfit for Don Juan to the nun’s wimple for Elvire, she has her stitches in place.

As directed by Hal Brooks, this Don Juan has its real ace in Adams as the bad boy who abuses love. Theatergoers who have never seen Moliere’s morality play on stage, or want to renew their acquaintance with it, now have a chance to see it at the Pearl with a shimmering turn by Adams.

No, this isn’t a definitive production but a devilishly good one.  But don’t dally in getting a ticket.  The production, like Don Juan himself, is no lingerer and will wing away soon.

Through June 7th.

At the Pearl Theatre, 555 West 42nd Street, Manhattan.

For more information, phone The Pearl Box Office at (212) 563-9261 or visit

Running Time:  2 hours plus 10 minute intermission.