Friday, April 25, 2014

DonJuan, or Wages of Debauchery

The often delightful (but too frequently slow) DonJuan, or Wages of Debauchery, adapted from a Czech classic, is conceived and directed by Vit Horejs and presented by the Czechoslovak-American Marionette Theatre. This Don Juan is not a charmer. His seductions often veer into molestation territory, and he's not above a murder or two. It doesn't help that Horejs plays him in an endless monotone that manages to remove all traces of charisma and warmth. Luckily, however, Don Juan is only the titular lead.

Photo: Jonathan Slaff
The true star is Don Juan's servant, Kasparek, performed with wry humor and great panache by Theresa Linniham. Kasparek is a familiar type, kind of dumb yet brilliant when it comes to self-protection. Linniham provides him with warmth and humanity, and it's a pleasure to root for his passive-aggressive silliness. The hoariest humor is somehow fresh in Linniham's capable hands. The press release refers to her work as "a comic tour-de-force," and you'll get no argument from me.

The humans are visible and interact throughout Don Juan, and on the whole they are pretty wonderful. (The rest of the cast includes Deborah Beshaw-Farrell, Otis Cotton, and Tess Wonson.) The costumes are endearingly ragtag, the scenery the same. The puppets range from fairly stiff to multifaceted, but they are all animated by the cast's joy and energy. Some of them are stunning.

DonJuan, or Wages of Debauchery has an appealing "let's-put-on-a-show" vibe. If it were 15 minutes shorter, and if Horejs gave Don Juan even the glimmer of a personality, it would be a complete success. As it stands, it is still a lovely evening in the theatre.

(press ticket, first row)

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