Don Juan Dispenso is a re-telling of an old legend. The original play, Don Juan, the Trickster of Seville, was written, circa 1625, by Spanish dramatist and poet Tirso de Molina who was the first to introduce this memorable and devilish character to audiences.
Tirso, a Mercedarian monk and one of the most prolific writers of the Spanish Golden Age, fashioned a lively and entertaining morality play, full of music, song, seduction and spectacle. Tirso”™s play went on to have an enormous impact on literature and culture, influencing Mozart (the opera), Lord Byron (the epic poem) and Shaw, among others.
The name of this legendary fictional libertine, Don Juan, is often used figuratively as a synonym for master of seduction. The story of this ruthless and lecherous “˜lothario”™, however, usually ends dramatically.
Set during the 20″™s and 30″™s of the last century, producer, writer and director Tony Tanner”™s loose and modern version takes place across Spain, Italy and France.
Our anti-hero, Don Juan (Ahmad Enani), is first met when he is a handsome young man of twenty-five. A smooth-talking, charming predator, Don Juan”™s main preoccupation appears to be cheating and tricking women of their clothes and honor without a shred of remorse.
Young and virile, Don Juan chooses his victims from all classes and all age groups. His acts of cruel seduction, physical abuse and rape eventually lead him to a term in a Spanish prison.
After a year”™s incarceration, he is released a broken man having suffered his own dark night of the soul. Whether or not this experience has changed him, perhaps for the better, is only revealed at the play”™s conclusion.
Tanner”™s version is an excellent update of this bleak classic. It”™s a shame the cast is not equal to its high-flown language. Ahmad Enani gives a good performance as the villainous lead. Most of the others in the cast, unfortunately, are not up to his standard”¦ The most egregious offense was made by the woman playing a German conquest of Don Juan – her accent wavered between Russian and Italian and did not sound at all Germanic.
The writer also reveals some ignorance (the term “timbre” is not pronounced “timber” – something that should have been picked up by a director who was not also the writer). Also, it”™s hard to tell if a reference to a Paris hotel, here called The Saint George, was a mistaken reference to the salubrious George V (pronounced “cinq”) or simply a fictitious hotel. And someone should tell those actors that one never handles a man”™s hat by its brim.
Playing Don Juan”™s loyal valet Sam, Kevin Scott Allen also narrates the play and did an okay job. His costume – like most costumes in the play – looked as if it was rummaged from the actor”™s own wardrobe. Consequently, he dressed more like an ostler or jockey than an early 20th Century manservant.
Finally, Tanner opted to excise the supernatural element from the original play, which presents Don Juan being dragged to hell in a fiery and visually spectacular finale. Tanner”™s ending is an interesting take on this legend but lacks the dramatic and morally righteous conclusion that is expected.
While a little lacking in presentation, this production is nonetheless worth seeing.
The Missing Piece Theatre
2811 Magnolia Boulevard,
Burbank CA 91505
Runs — Friday and Saturday at 8:00 pm;
Sunday at 3:00 pm
until April 4th, 2010
Tickets are $20.
Reservations are strongly recommended.
For reservations please call Brown Paper Tickets at (800) 838-3006.
Review by Pauline Adamek