SACRED FOOLS | MAINSTAGE 2003 - Don Juan in Chicago

WINNER of the 2003 L.A. Weekly Award
for Best Comedy Direction (Joe Jordan)!

Also nominated for Best Comedy Ensemble
and Best Costume Design (Ruth Silveira & Mary Hayes)!

 

"A laugh-out-loud experience... the show's comic timing is a wonder to behold!" --L.A. Times
"Hilariously mangles the conventions of classic comedy!" --L.A. Weekly (Recommended!)

"A fruit-loopy divertimento... a first-rate chamber ensemble!" --BackStage West
"The most fun you can have in public without being arrested!" --ReviewPlays.com
"Throbbingly goofy.  Highly entertaining." --Ravi Narasimhan, Physicist & Theatre Enthusiast




Directed by Joe Jordan

A HILARIOUS JOURNEY OVER CONTINENTS,
CENTURIES AND THOUSANDS OF WOMEN!

On the Mainstage...
Fridays & Saturdays @ 8pm
Sundays @ 7pm
(Opening Night: Thurs, July 17)
July 17 - August 23, 2003
Tickets: $15
Reservations: (310) 281-8337
or Purchase Tickets Online!
Click here to guarantee your tickets online!
Pay-What-You-Can PREVIEW!
Wednesday, July 16 @ 8pm

Featuring...
Julie Alexander, Michael Lanahan,
Ashley West Leonard, Maggie Marion,
Jeff Marlow, Frank Stasio,
Mark McClain Wilson and Philip Wofford

Don Juan has no time for romance; all he wants is to discover the meaning of life.  But an unfortunate deal with the devil grants him immortality only if he can bed a different woman each day.  Four hundred years and countless women later, his past catches up with him in Chicago.  Will he find the truth he's been seeking before the devil claims his due?

Joe Jordan is a current co-Artistic Director of Sacred Fools,
and previously directed "The Comedy of Errors" (Summer 2001)
and "The Tragedy of Macbeth" (Summer 2002).

Produced by Julie Mullen

Associate Producers: Tom Kiesche & Philip Wofford
Stage Manager: Heatherlynn Lane
Set Design: Carlos Fedos
Sound Design: Jason Tuttle
Lighting Design: Heatherlynn Lane & Douglas Gabrielle
Costume Design: Ruth Silveira & Mary Hayes
16th Century Costume Construction: Ruth Silveira
Prop Design: Stan Freitag
Fight Choreography: David Mattey
Fight Captain: Michael Lanahan
Scenic Artists: Lisa D. Watson & Susan Burns
Run Crew: C.M. Gonzalez

REVIEWS!

L.A. TIMES

The ageless 'Don Juan': his love for immortality

In a deal with the devil, our hero must bed a different woman daily to keep living, a goofy premise well executed.


Every day for more than 400 years, he's had sex. And, frankly, he's tired of it.

A Faust-like pact with the devil keeps the rakish Don Juan bed-hopping from 1599 to the present day in "Don Juan in Chicago."

Written by David Ives of "All in the Timing" fame, the play is a bit silly and somewhat sophomoric. But in a Sacred Fools production, it is a laugh-out-loud experience that takes a sweetly surprising turn after all the foolishness.

As the story begins in 1599 Seville, Spain, Don Juan (Jeff Marlow) is a 30-year-old virgin given to intellectual pursuits. Among these is a fascination with the occult.

Conjuring the devil (Mark McClain Wilson), he asks for immortality so that he'll have more time to ponder life's mysteries. The devil agrees, but on the condition that Don Juan bed a different woman every day. Otherwise, bam, straight to Hades.

The immortality extends to Don Juan's outspoken servant, Leporello (Michael Lanahan), who does some choice wigging out when he learns the news. But there's little time for drama, since there's that first woman to bed.

Unfortunately for the don, she turns out to be the love of his life: Dona Elvira (Ashley West Leonard). This scene and several others unfold in wacky, pseudo-classical rhyme.

The story then proceeds to present-day Chicago (with Ruth Silveira and Mary Hayes' costumes helping to chart the way), where the now-beleaguered men become entangled in the complexities of a pair of modern relationships (Julie Alexander and Frank Stasio, and Maggie Marion and Philip Wofford).

Under Joe Jordan's direction, the show's comic timing is a wonder to behold, especially when the clownish Lanahan is on hand to dive behind a divan while coaching Don Juan through a seduction or Leonard shows up to work herself into drama-queen theatrics.

Los Angeles has seen this "Don Juan" before (West Coast Ensemble presented it in 1996), but its refreshingly retro message is worth hearing again.

-- Daryl H. Miller
©2003 L.A. Times

L.A. WEEKLY (Recommended!)

Playwright David Ives puts a revisionist spin on the Don Juan legend in his dizzy farce, written mostly in rhymed couplets. This Don (Jeff Marlow) is a serial seducer, like his traditional counterpart, but his motivations are different. As a 30-year-old virgin in 1599 Seville, heís more interested in philosophy than in women. He conjures up the devil to ask for the gift of immortality so he can explore the meaning of life. Whimsical Mephistopheles (Mark McClain Wilson) grants his wish, but for a price: He must seduce a new woman every single day or face eternal damnation. Four hundred years and 146,000 women later, heís settled in Chicago, and the game is beginning to pall. Ives hilariously mangles the conventions of classic comedy, and an accomplished cast cavorts with zest. Director Joe Jordan keeps the action manic on Carlos Fedosí clever set, and the costumes, by Ruth Silveira and Mary Hayes, playfully mix 16th-century and contemporary styles.

-- Neal Weaver
©2003 L.A. Weekly

BACKSTAGE WEST

A past master at the smart, sketchy short-form playlet, David Ives tries his hand at a full-length here and mostly manages well, though he does some fast tap-dancing to pull it off. There are at least a dozen too many bad puns, creaky rhyming couplets, and pop-culture winks in this Twilight Zone take on the Don Juan story, which mixes in a little Faust, a little Seinfeld, even a little Marriage of Figaro. It's a tribute to director Joe Jordan's fleet-footed, well-modulated direction that, though we're always aware of Ives' cleverness and the theatricality of his concept, and we can see some of his twists coming centuries away, we have a good time along the way. Ives' Don Juan (Jeff Marlow) starts out in 17th century Spain as a cloistered alchemy nerd with neither interest nor experience in sex. His next science experiment: summoning the devil to ask for immortality. When Mephistopheles (Mark McClain Wilson, overmincing just a bit) arrives, choking on his own sulfur, he quickly agrees--on the condition that the virginal Don Juan bed a different woman every night or the jig is up and it's barbecue time. The don shakes on it and thoughtfully includes his servant Leporello (Michael Lanahan) in the bargain. Good thing, as Leporello will be a key ally in his success--first with the conveniently ready and willing Dona Elvira (Ashley West Leonard) and then for centuries afterward, as the two work their way through the women of city after city, carefully noting names, dates, and locales so that the don doesn't dip his wick twice in the same place (part of the deal). Unaware of his deal and longing for a second chance is persistent Elvira, whose deal with the devil is an inverse of Don Juan's: She gets to live until she beds him again. The logical extremes of this double fantasy provide most of the play's plot and also scratch at some existential pathos: What's the point of living forever when you've got to woo and screw someone new every night? Especially when there are complications, courtesy of a Durang-like misfit couple (Julie Alexander and Frank Stasio) and a dorky sitcom neighbor and his new girlfriend (Phillip Wofford and Maggie Marion). In other words, Ives' second act Chicago is closer to TV Land than Mamet, as even the play's warped complications get a tidy wrap-up. As the increasingly world-weary but still self-involved don, Marlow gives a sleek, witty performance that bounces off Lanahan's Everyman rancor quite nicely, like Jeeves and Wooster in sitcom purgatory. Leonard pitches her desperate Elvira just about as far over the top as she'll go, making the most of Ives' funny-terrible doggerel verse and helping the ending, with its meaning-of-life felicities, go down like the dessert it is. The same could be said of this production, which boasts fine costumes by Ruth Silviera and Mary Hayes and set by Carlos Fedos: It's a fruit-loopy divertimento, not Don Giovanni, and it's played here by a first-rate chamber ensemble.

-- Rob Kendt
©2003 BackStage West

REVIEWPLAYS.COM

Ever wonder why Don Juan was considered the greatest lover of all time? Playwright David Ives gives his version of how the legend was born, and if we are to believe the play, it was a fame that was earned almost reluctantly, one night at a time.

Making a pact with the Devil almost always lead to chaos. In this case, comic chaos, as we discover that Don Juan was not the suave charmer, but a rather clumsy non-amorous, virginal twit who was more interested in the meaning of life than in being permanently involved with a woman. 

OK, so maybe he wasn't that dumb.

His dilemma is that there's not enough time to learn and discover all the things about life - so how can one extend the life cycle? As The Church Lady used to say in Saturday Night Live - "SATAN!"

Don Juan finds some mystical incantations and potions, and one fine evening late in 1599, a cloud of smoke suddenly surges in his living room from which emerges - - - Mephistopheles himself, (coughing from the smoke with a rather bad allergy). Don Juan tells Mephistopheles he wants immortality and will gladly give his soul for it, to which Mephistopheles quickly agrees - with a condition. Since the Don is an inept and disinterested lover, Mephistopheles adds a clause that requires him to bed a different woman every night - never repeating. If he fails to make a conquest, the deal is off and by the stroke of midnight, brimstone and perdition will take his life and soul. What to do? Poor Don Juan has no experience - never even been to bat, let alone reach first base, and now he has to do it every day!

That's when his trusty and loyal butler, Leporello comes to the rescue. His experiences and knowledge guide the Don through centuries of misadventures and miss-capades until we find them in modern day Chicago, exhausted, and almost ready to throw in the towel.

Back in 1599, The first woman to fall prey to Don Juan's sexual blunders was the lovely Dona Elvira, who inexplicably had a wanton desire for him. Their short and very brief encounter only whetted her appetite for more, and she makes a pact with the Devil herself, to have Don Juan for all eternity.

Since he can't be with her again, and she won't have anyone else, the Devil joyously realizes he has tricked both into a perfect stalemate. Now, in Chicago, Elvira finally catches up with Don Juan and eagerly anticipates the fulfillment of her contract.

Fate steps in, with the help of the playwright, and a woman enters into the picture. No ordinary woman, this one has a history with Don Juan, and when he discovers the hidden secret she carries, his life takes an entirely new turn. 

Let's just say that the Devil makes an uncharacteristic move, and by the end of the story you almost feel glad for Don Juan.

Jeff Marlow plays the Don for laughs with the strictest deadpan expression ever, and Michael Lanahan is terrific as the butler, Leporello (Lefty). One look at Ashley West Leonard, who plays Dona Elvira, and you know Don Juan is nuts for not letting her catch him. She has some of the best one-liners and delivers them with perfect timing and style. 

Think "Q" is the Startrek series, and you get an idea of how Mark McClain Wilson plays Mephistopheles. A sometimes conniving trickster who'll do anything to toy with the souls and lives of people, Wilson brings a touch of charm to the role, taking a huge bite of the plum role, and savoring to the max.

Frank Stasio, Maggie Marion, Julie Alexander and Phillip Wofford also appear in the contemporary era of the play.

Besides the great costumes by Ruth Silveira and Mary Hayes, the sound design by Jason Tuttle is absolutely perfect, adding a chilling aura to the presentation. Director Joe Jordan keeps the three acts going briskly, with clever asides to the audience here and there.

It has to be noted that the play is in rhyme, which could be troublesome with lesser material, but it really serves the plot here, adding significantly to the comedic vein of the presentation.

Considering the July heat wave and the dearth of good TV programming, this is the most fun you can have in public without being arrested, but if something unexpected happens, just remember - - - you too can make a deal that could stretch out a few hundred years. Come see the play, and if you pay close attention, you might just find out what it takes to drive the Devil to despair.

-- Jose Ruiz
©2003 ReviewPlays.com