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BWW Review: DON JUAN IN HELL at Washington Stage Guild

Wit, wisdom, and sometimes overpowering verbosity

BWW Review: DON JUAN IN HELL at Washington Stage Guild

Wit, wisdom, and sometimes overpowering verbosity fill George Bernard Shaws' Don Juan In Hell, the dream sequence contained within the third act of the Irish playwright's Man and Superman and sometime performed independently.

Over this Thanksgiving Weekend, Washington Stage Guild - which last presented Man and Superman in its entirety in 1998 - is performing the dream sequence on its own. But don't worry: that's no mean theatrical feat: Don Juan in Hell alone is 102 minutes. long.

In the sequence, four characters from the full-length play imagine they are figures from the opera Don Giovanni who engage in heated debate about Heaven and Hell, love and marriage, and other favorite Shavian topics. (Shaw, incidentally, was also a music critic.)

The playwright flips things on their side: Unlike in the Mozart opera, Don Juan was the one killed by Dona Ana's father in their duel rather than the other way around, and the famed seducer sees himself as the quarry rather than pursuer of women. The Devil envisions Hell as full of "honor, duty, and justice," and not everyone ends up in the eternal place they might expect.

For safety reasons, the four actors in the production performed at home and came together online, as Stage Guild artistic director Bill Largess, pointed out. Ironically, while a Zoom production might lack set or costume design, this one actually benefits from the eerie atmosphere (with red devilish overtones).

Shaw doesn't distribute the lines evenly here, with Don Juan and The Devil receiving the yeoman's shares. As Don Juan, Nathan Whitmer projects a sharp intellect but world-weariness as the one-time womanizer, whereas Morgan Duncan as The Devil challenges him with a bemused sense of winning the argument in the end.

As Dona Ana, Emelie Faith Thompson finds new purpose as the "life force" that will bring about the "Superman" envisioned by Nietzsche. Largess plays her father as someone who understands Don Juan better than Dona Ana would like him to.

Associate artistic director of WSG, Steven Carpenter, helmed the production, under the aegis The Theatre Authority and Actors' Equity Association.

Running Time: One Hour and 41 minutes.

Don Juan in Hell will stream through Sunday, November 29 at 8p.m. It will be available for viewing any time within that framework on the Stage Guild's You Tube Channel.

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From This Author Barbara Trainin Blank