The Andak Stage Company’s production of Tirso de Molina’s “Don Juan — The Trickster of Seville,” in a world premiere translation by Dakin Matthews, is fragrant with wit, poetry, and dark jests about the cruelty of men. It’s also very entertaining. This source of the “Don Juan” archetype was written by a Spanish monk in approximately 1625, so it shouldn’t be surprising that the story is very much a morality play, albeit a racy and funny one. Director Anne McNaughton does a masterly job with minimal production elements and a notably talented cast.
As the tale begins, Don Juan Tenorio (Mark Doerr) has just deceived and deflowered Duchess Isabella (Rachel Oliva), and has managed to place to blame on the innocent Duke Octavio (Michael Kirby).
Don Juan and his hapless servant, Catalinón (Andrew Matthews), are sent to Seville to wait until the situation cools down, but our antihero disdains cooling down of any sort.
To this end he seduces the fisherwoman Tisbea (Maegan McConnell) with false promises of marriage, even after she saves his life. In Seville, King Alfonso (Steve Peterson) and Don Juan’s father, Don Diego (Dennis Gersten), try to get him to settle down by promising him to the daughter of ambassador Gonzalo (Brian George), but his perfidy knows no bounds. Unfortunately for him, one day he will have to pay for his terrible behavior.
Doerr captures the right mix of sadism and arrogant pride as Don Juan. Unlike later versions where the character is presented as a rakish charmer, the original is an unapologetic bastard, and the actor presents his villainy with a smug panache that doesn’t pander to the audience. Matthews is terrific as the appalled servant who can’t quite leave his master, and his comic delivery is assured and bright. McConnell and Meaghan Boeing are both quite good as Don Juan’s victims, and Richard Miro is mournfully funny as the unlucky bridegroom Batricio.
Steve Peterson and Dennis Gersten offer dextrous comic performances as royals and nobility flustered by Don Juan’s actions, and Terry Evans is roguishly charming as the unfortunate Marquis of Mota, who makes the mistake of trusting the dastardly Don. Finally, Brian George steals the show as Gonzalo, particularly in a lavish monologue detailing the wonders of Lisbon, a piece of acting that’s so charismatic and convincing it should be snapped up by the Portuguese Tourism Council. George hits every note of the role perfectly, and his various perfs in the show serve to demonstrate his consummate skill.
Matthews’ translation is supple and clear, effortlessly transitioning from moments of poetic beauty to those of bawdy humor. It’s an example of how to do translation or adaptation right, respectful of the original text yet fully comprehensible for a modern audience. While Dean Cameron’s set exists mainly as a hint of settings, his costumes are resplendent creations, layers of velvet and fur and brocade, adorned with feathers or silk.