Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

Opera, music, theater, and art in Los Angeles and beyond

In the Company of Men

April 21, 2008

Elijah Alexander as Don Juan and Libby West as Donna Elvira
Photo : Craig Schwartz 2008
I’ve been meaning to write about the very good production of Molière’s Don Juan now on stage at A Noise Within over in Glendale for a couple of weeks. Shame on me for not doing so sooner because it’s the best show there yet this season. Funny without being over-the-top, it’s a sharp production that milks the episodic nature of the tale for every last drop of wit. I choose to lay most of this at the feet of Michael Michetti, probably the strongest director working in the local LA theater scene today. His work at the Theater at Boston Court is always worthwhile and the set designs and guidance he gives the Noise Within troupe is remarkable.

Molière’s tale of this particular rake’s progress is disjointed and typically the real challenge is providing some sort of unifying vision for the production. Michetti achieves this by using a strong visual motif that incorporates modern dress, a bright color scheme, and certain print-inspired design elements to create a production that makes reference to the period of the action but is not beholden to it. Michetti is also wise to keep the focus on J.D. Cullum whose comic turn as Sganarelle drives the show. However, these visual elements are never allowed to overwhelm the production with cynicism or sly self-parody. Of the women in the cast Abby Craden nearly steals the show and Libby West again delivers a strong performance. Elijah Alexander is quite good as Don Juan and is well cast here. He is attractive enough to be the lothario, but not so much so as to upset the comic balance of the cast. His soap opera training serves him well in this poly-amorous context and he comes off as believable throughout.

Now there are some rough spots. The damnation scene is a good idea but carried off too clumsily here. This is, of course, partly Molière’s fault given how little time he leaves between a rather rapid series of events in the final act. Still there is plenty of reason to see this very strong production and lucky for you, even though I’m slow in getting this comment on-line, there are nine performances left through the end of May.

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