Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Connecticut & the Berkshires

Don Juan
Westport Country Playhouse
Review by Fred Sokol | Season Schedule

Also see Zander's review of A Shayna Maidel


Bhavesh Patel and Nick Westrate
Photo by Carol Rosegg
Don Juan, at Westport Country Playhouse through November 23rd, is all about a rogue named Don Juan (Nick Westrate). This production benefits from Brendan Pelsue's new translation and adaptation of a play Molière wrote in 1665. Showcasing imaginative set design by Marsha Ginsberg and appropriately catchy costuming by Katherine Ross, the show is enlivened through David Kennedy's direction and excellent actor performance. All of that said, this very contemporary Don Juan is a man to elude at all costs. He is an individual who would receive easy entrance in a Narcissistic Hall of Fame if such a venue existed.

It's not only about Don Juan but about his omnipresent servant friend, Sganarelle (Bhavesh Patel). Sganarelle knows the man he assists is a womanizer and is not shy about expressing his own opinions. Signarelle himself is sometimes bold but at other moments less than brave. He doesn't mind going toe to toe or mind to mind with Don Juan. Early on, they argue about marriage and fidelity. Before too long, Don Juan's wife Dona Elvira (Suzy Jane Hunt) comes on the scene. She knows Don Juan has been far from true to her.

Let's stare at reality: it's tough to think about hanging out with this Don Juan. He is conceited and oblivious to his self-serving nature. Don Juan must possess magnificent powers of seduction.

A welcome break and brief digression from Don Juanism occurs when Pierrot (Carson Elrod) and Charlotte (Ariana Venturi) take center stage. Elrod endows his character with a tough New York accent. Before long, though, Don Juan is back and it seems that he's been involved with both Charlotte (Venturi) and another woman, Mathurine (Claudia Logan).

Next, we find Sganarelle, in full hospital physician garb, and Don Juan, wearing a sport coat and vest, wandering before a lovely looking wooded area. A beggar Philip Goodwin) comes along for a conversation. Just before intermission, Don Juan and Sganarelle approach a statue of someone Don Juan evidently killed. Yet, the statue is able to nod its head.

Don Juan eventually introduces other people, such as a creditor named Dimanche (Elrod) and then Don Louis (Goodwin), who is Don Juan's father. Meanwhile, Sganarelle, disparaged during the early portion of the play, is now more valued.

There's much more of this combination of slapstick and satire. The production is performed with precision and it garners some laughs. Translator Pelsue is a talent, and Kennedy has sculpted the presentation with both care and know-how. As the leads, Westrate and Patel provide individually strong performances. Their precise timing, so important, honors the dialogue. Their quality of craft cannot be questioned. Carson Elrod, taking on two wildly different characters, shows both versatility and discipline through his acting.

This is a play about an adulterous, philandering man who appears (for the strong majority of the time) to care only about himself. He lives within a universe of delusion by thinking that he is a prize among human beings and that he is adored by all others. Don Juan is a depraved man who treats women as objects. He is insulting and sympathy he feigns is not genuine. Some of the translated lines, however, are comic ones, so it is not surprising to laugh.

In the end, Don Juan is certainly provocative and the Westport Country Playhouse rendering boasts (in addition to dextrous acting) impressive production values and elements. It is fresh, fast-paced and engaging.

Don Juan runs through November 23, 2019, at Westport Country Playhouse, 25 Powers Court, Westport CT. For tickets and information, call 203-227-4177 or visit westportplayhouse.org.


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