Don Juan – Theater review

Don Juan
Photo: A Noise Within

Published in The Student Life on 4.11.2008

Sensual, funny, and inspiring: welcome to Moliere’s Don Juan at A Noise Within Theater. The story is well known: Don Juan, an enchanting libertine devoted to the pursuit of sensual pleasures, leaves his wife in quest of fresh love adventures. While chasing a newly blossomed passion, an engaged girl about to be married, the notorious lover and his faithful and witty valet find themselves in a small seashore village where the gorgeous peasant girls are more abundant than the grains of sand on the beach. Of course, Don Juan does what he does best: charms, conquers, and leaves every beautiful creature that comes his way. Things, however, are bound to change.

The classical play, excellent in itself, is presented in the most truthful and appealing manner. The typical long Moliere monologues are more than pleasant to watch: the viewers are hooked from the very beginning and every word is another drop in the general enjoyment. The dialogue, too, is quick and dynamic and boredom in the audience is simply impossible. From beginning to end, the play is energetic and fast-paced and the final scene comes almost unexpectedly soon after the ten-minute intermission. The production is faithful to the charmingly comic nature of the original play. The comical elements that amuse and entertain, however, spring not only from Moliere’s text but also from the actors’ presence. Don Juan displays extremely successful casting choices: Don Juan Tenorio, portrayed by Elijah Alexander, is tall and fleshy, as any man of corporal pleasures should be. His “important gentleman clothes” and casually nonchalant style complete the image of endless southern passion. Don Juan’s valet, Sganarelle, enacted by the hilarious JD Cullum, is the complete opposite. Short and compact, he is as lively and mobile as his sharp and provocative speech. Another remarkable performance, albeit a non-lead, is given by Kyle Nudo, the unfortunate lover of one of Don Juan’s victims. These three characters mark the cornerstones of the play’s genuine success. All others, equally talented and impressive, contribute further to the audience’s great enjoyment.

In addition to a brilliant script and a great performance, Don Juan appeals to the viewers with a number of visual and sound effects. Costumes are traditional and predictable but obviously well chosen and effective. A detail that makes them more than just clothes on the actors’ backs is the fact that each major scene change is color-coordinated. The play opens in Don Juan’s apartment and the theme colors are unmistakably black and white. Costumes, furniture, and floor tiles, everything on stage is decided in these two colors. Once the action moves to the beach, however, the viewer is transported to a world of orange, yellow, and gold, in which not only the sand and rocks of the shore but also the dresses of the actresses carry an impression of warmth and sunlight. As the play approaches its climax, the color effects become even louder: entering the mausoleum of the Commander whom Don Juan has killed six months before, the characters find themselves in a mysterious red dusk in which the dramatic and scary recorded speech and various sounds are only more fitting and impressive. These visual and sound effects give the play substance and lure the viewer to believe in its reality.

The production opened on March 29th and will end at the beginning of May. A Noise Within is a small venue in LA but its excellent performances fill every seat in the house with a varied audience including many students. For all interested in classical theater or simply looking for a quality performance to enjoy on a weekend afternoon or night, Don Juan is a must. If you have seen it already, expect Shakespeare’s Henry IV and Tennessee Williams’s The Night of the Iguana.

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