Don Juan in Hell
Germinal Stage Denver: 11/9 – 12/16
Wise, witty and extremely verbose, George Bernard Shaw’s “ Don Juan in Hell” is a thinking man’s/woman’s play.
Baierlein’s aesthetically pleasing scenic design is the very picture of balance order and harmony. One is drawn into this immaculate drawing room in Hell by a blue lighting that soothes and invites. Four gorgeous mahogany chairs are the main furnishings of this simple and civilized place. A table with a vase of flowers, a decanter of liquor and four glasses serves as background.
In their incarnations on earth Don Juan killed Dona Ana’s father, who one may remember damned Juan to Hell in the grand finale of Mozart’s opera. The characters in this play (Act) mirror and illuminate those in the other three Acts of Shaw’s “Man and Superman.”
Both Don Juan (Terry Burnsed) and Dona Ana are intentionally hidden from view by their costuming in the opening scene. Ostensibly this is because of ego (an enormously ornate hat) in the case of the Don and a robe with cowel for Dona Ana (Julie Michalak) to hide a lady-like sensitivity to age issues. She was 70 upon leaving the earth life experience and doesn’t know that when she unveils herself in Hell she will be whatever age she likes. In this case she chooses late thirties.
Burnsed, Michalak and Caouette are all superb. However… Michael Shaloub steals the show as the unctuously civil and polite Devil who is dressed like a B movie producer from Malibu.
Shaw’s irreverence toward the social institutions of his day lampoons the institutions of marriage (“Marriage is the most licentious of institutions.”) and the church (“the flies and fleas and fathers of the Church”) as well as the inhabitants of jolly old England. “The devil’s greatest following is in England. An Englishman thinks himself moral when he’s merely uncomfortable.”
The costumes are all well designed by Sallie Diamond. The costume for the Statue of the Commendatore (Paul A. Caouette) is of special note. Magnificent!
Philosopher, rhetorician and outspoken polemicist, Shaw’s Irish wit and wisdom provide the ear with a cascade of amusing profundity. His words flow so clearly and articulately from the mouths of these four artists that it astounds.Heaven it seems is the home of rational thought while Hell houses those who have espoused the virtues on earth. Heaven is to steer and Hell to drift. There are so many bons mots, axioms and witticisms in this evening of theatre that even Baierlein can’t resist getting into the act. In a moment of self-deprecating hilarity we learn that “Hell is like a long wordy play with only one Intermission.” PSHAW!
Don Juan in Hell is Act Three (The Dream) of "Man and Superman" and is often performed alone. Shaw’s version of Hell predates Sartre’s that “Hell is other people.” The only other definition I know is Jim Carrey’s: “Maybe there is no actual place called hell. Maybe hell is just having to listen to our grandparents breathe through their noses when they’re eating sandwiches.”
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