Brad Heberlee as
Sganarelle and Chris Mixon as the Statue (Photo credit: Russ
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
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,
For more information, phone The Pearl Box Office at (212) 563-9261
or visit www.pearltheatre.org
Running Time: 2 hours plus 10 minute intermission.