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LA Theater Review

Don Juan: The Trickster of Seville

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The racy adventures of the legendary Spanish philanderer and trickster, and his fiery comeuppance, as translated by Dakin Matthews from Tirso de Molina's 17th century play, El Burlador de Sevilla, is a wondrous piece of work. This morality play from the golden age of Spanish literature could, in lesser hands, confound a contemporary audience, but it springs to vivid life under Anne McNaughton's joyous direction. Matthews' great humor and theatrical ease combine with his scholarship to preserve the flavor of the original, as well as its complex, traditional verse forms--even throwing in hilarious anachronisms that need no excuses--the result of which is a wildly funny play about the sexual exploits of a bounder and a rounder, with no bow to crudity or foul language. A scintillating cast takes the cunningly conceived characters above and beyond a faithful rendering of an era-specific comedy with all the trappings of ancient history or musty legend.

Mark Doerr is outstanding as Don Juan Tenorio, the charming bad boy who delights in tricking, with false promises, every woman he meets into bed, even while ordering his servant, Catalinón (a genuinely funny Andrew Matthews), to saddle the horses for his getaway. Dishonored and abandoned are the lovely Rachel Oliva as Duchess Isabella in Naples and Doña Ana in Seville; an innocent country bride, Aminta (Meaghan Boeing), in Dos Hermanas; and a fisherwoman, Tisbea (a fetching and feisty Maegan McConnell), in Tarragona. Not until the murder of Doña Ana's father, Gonzalo (Brian George), and the solidarity of a female conclave of dishonored women, does Don Juan discover there's no time left "till the bills come due," a refrain that's spoken and sung, to Carl Smith's music, throughout the play. Steve Peterson is loftily fine as the often dumbfounded kings of Naples and Seville; Michael Kirby, Richard Miro, Dennis Gersten, and Terry Evans offer splendid support as several specific and varied characters.

Dean Cameron's simple set and colorful costumes (especially the Stone Man's), Peter Strauss' lighting, Andrew Matthews' sound (as comic as his performance), Stephanie Shroyer's choreography, and Matt Jaeger's fight direction join to make this a thoroughly enjoyable frolic.

Presented by Andak Stage Company at NewPlace Theatre Center, 4900 Vineland Ave., North Hollywood. Sat. 2 & 8 p.m., Sun. 2 & 7 p.m. Feb. 4-26. (818) 506-8462.

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