KPBS AIRDATE: June 11, 2004
Familiar forms, uncommon visions. You may never see a more gorgeous, flawless production of Molière than “Don Juan” at the Old Globe. And you won’t see a silent movie more beautifully sung than Cygnet’s “Bed and Sofa.” They may not be for everyone, but they’re certainly for anyone who loves theater.
The Globe production of “Don Juan,” brilliantly translated, adapted and directed by Stephen Wadsworth, is timely, edgy, provocative and colloquial — just like Molière’s original, which opened in Paris in 1665. Close on the heels of the suppressed “Tartuffe,” this play was even more troubling to the censors in the court of Louis XIV. But it remains a dazzling exposé of hypocrisy in religion, politics and the social order, spouting iconoclastic arguments that are no less apt today. The performances are spectacular, especially Adam Stein as the irreverent seducer, whose intellect almost outweighs his debauchery; Andrew Weems as his ever-faithful valet Sganarelle, a role Molière himself played, undoubtedly to delicious excess; and as Dona Elvira, the most recent woman Don Juan done wrong, Francesca Faridany is luminous. The design elements are breathtaking — sets, costumes, lighting and sound. You mustn’t miss this stunning production of a remarkable play.
Now speaking of a remarkable invention, how about a silent movie musical? Composer Polly Pen and writer Laurence Klavan took a 1927 Russian film, “Bed and Sofa,” and turned it into a 1996 Obie Award-winning theater piece that just about defies description. It’s a chamber musical, a mini-opera, a quirky comic drama about miserable times in Moscow.
Like Molière’s play, Abram Broom’s film was so shocking it was banned. But it’s now considered a masterpiece of its era. Pretty risky and risqué for its time, the piece focuses on a love triangle in a cramped apartment: Ludmilla, unhappy in her marriage to a brutish construction worker, dreams of romance. Her prayers seem to be answered when her husband runs into an old Army buddy, a sensitive printer, and invites him home to their tiny flat. From then on, it’s all about who’s in, who’s out, who’s on the bed, who gets the sofa. And ultimately, who gets fed up with the arrangement.
The intermissionless musical is getting a glorious production at Cygnet Theatre, magnificently designed and directed by Sean Murray, all in filmic black, white and gray. The costumes and lighting are wonderful, as is the musical direction and accompaniment (Don LeMaster). And the cast is spectacular; the acting skill and marvelous voices of Julie Jacobs, Eric Anderson and Michael Elliott beautifully embrace this intricate, sophisticated, unusual musical treat. If you relish a uniquely tasty evening at the theater, have I got two for you!
©2004 Patté Productions Inc.