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Up is down, Down is up

May 25, 2015

Don Juan 8Alex Walters has birthed a comedy with Don Juan (Written Moliere Directed by Alex Walters). Don Juan at Zombie Joe’s had a short run, but it was a great run. If there is ever a revival, you must go see.

Alex approaches Don Juan as comedy, a send up of telenovelas, complete with “oh no” moments, and cheesy jokes. Sganarelle (Dorian Serna) serves two masters, the audience, and Don Juan. He acts as Don Juan’s head servant, and also the quasi narrator. He connects the audience to the story.

Alex balances comedy with the driven narrative of what is at its core an anti libertine morality play. Don Juan follows the titular character, a free spirit. Don Juan (Robert Walters) is more than a hedonist who seeks decadence and self pleasure. He is about the chase, the power he has when he extracts pleasure from the use of others. This is what places notable libertines like De Sade in a category of their own. Keeping the comedy running in such a serious morality story line is all about timing. Alex succeeded quite well. The audience was laughing in unison, and were still and quite together as well.

Don Juan 5Walters pulls off such an ineffable affect. It’s as if he embodied the totality of what Don Juan is. That je ne sais quoi, a comme ci comme ça air that nothing can touch. The consequences of life never quite land on his shoulders. Even Walters’ laughter is light and airy. Taking what would be an unbearably light life (for most of us), and boiling it down to something tangible takes control over your character.

Throughout the show an ensemble of characters moves about Don Juan’s life, Sganarelle is the one constant in his life. A begrudging constant at that, for he fears the judgments of the afterlife, and fears his master’s actions will cost him a job. Don Juan cares not for the judgments of the afterlife, or this one for that matter. Much to the consternation of Sganarelle, and a few others.

Serna does a great job balancing his duties to the narrative and to Don Juan. Serna takes time for an aside, pausing the story to fill us in on his torment. He is our connection, his frustration our. How could Don Juan float so carelessly through life, while everyone around him pays the price.

The story follows Don Juan on his most recent adventure. Seemingly having just gained conquest over God himself, pulling one of his brides from her convent, he grows bored. He must strike out anew. On this adventure we are won over by Don Juan’s charm, but see the cost of his libertine lifestyle. At first it appears only that those around him suffer, families ruined, creditors left unpaid, Sganarelle suffering palpitations on his recent actions.Don Juan 3

Throughout the story the cast is filled out with a talented ensemble each taking on at least two characters, or different personas of the same character. Moving back and forth between the looks and mannerisms of each character makes the comedic timing of the entrances all the more impressive.

The asides, and tropes used to deliver the comedic lines are as funny as the jokes themselves. The all too familiar format of the telenovella seems a perfect delivery system for this rendition of Don Juan. The set ups are familiar, adding a layer of comfort and nostalgia to the laughter. The familiar allows the audience to connect to each other through their laughter, shaken heads and face palms. It’s all so obvious to the audience, but to Don Juan, Sganarelle and the other characters, it is simply their lives.

This familiarity can often be a seam the audience trips over on the journey; it is seamless in this instance thanks to the talented skills of the ensemble. They make it easy for the world to melt away, and for us to believe that their reality on stage is the totality of existence.

Don Juan is a fine faire of laughter to spend the evening partaking in.

Don Juan 11

Don Juan ran through May 24th at Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre.

For more information on the surreal, macabre, existential, and downright funny please visit:

All Photo Credit: Adam Neubauer

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