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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

A Tale of Two Dons

The production of “Don Juan Giovanni” at the American Repertory Theater

“Don Juan Giovanni,” a production of the American Repertory Theater, is a modern operatic production that brings a crossover of two infamous personalities and literature’s most notorious characters when it comes to the art of seduction-Don Juan and Don Giovanni. These two individuals, along with their sidekicks, Sganarelle and Leporello respectively, are pulled into present-day where their meeting, of course, is a byproduct of seduction. The father in Don Giovanni’s latest conquest chases him into the street, where he is hit by a car driven by, none other than Don Juan and Sganarelle. The two Dons immediately become friends and share stories of their previous conquests.

As characterized by the title, “Don Juan Giovanni” portrays the two Dons as reflections of each other, seeking new trysts, while being hounded by former loves. Don Juan is consistently preyed-upon by his abandoned wife, Elvire. And Don Giovanni is hunted by Anna, the girl whose father died at their own hands. There are even moments where the two characters share the same experiences, leaving the audience wondering whether or not these men are meant to be the same person, and not the two separate individuals that exist throughout the play.

This is truly a unique production that combines the use of Italian opera and the modern play. Don Giovanni can seemingly only communicate through Italian song, while Don Juan is mostly confined to English with a liberal dose of a French accent. For those who don’t speak Italian, those portions of the show provide a video projection of the singers accompanied by subtitles. It is for this reason that the audience might be glad the scenery is comprised of a basic single life-sized getaway car so that there is not too much to distract them from crucial plot elements. And the battle for your attention does exist as it is often drawn from the performers, to the screen, and back to the stage.

Despite the comedic and dramatic overtones, there still are challenges within the production. Intermittently, a sense of confusion arises when certain characters suddenly appear for seemingly no other reason than to advance the plot. This, coupled with a possible delay or lack in subtitles could easily lead one to think, “What the heck just happened?” Fortunately, the playbill contains a thorough explanation and synopsis so that even without the subtitles and assistance from characters, one can still get the gist and maintain an appreciation for the whole.

Overall, this was a fantastic performance credited to its cast, as well to its orchestra. It provides the audience with “a night at the opera” without the stuffy fanfare and formal attire that one might come to expect, and certainly much more comedy. Not since “The Jetsons Meet the Flintstones” has there been such a fantastic meeting of alternate realities and personalities.

“Don Juan Giovanni,” a production of the American Repertory Theater, plays through September 29th at the Loeb Drama Center at 64 Brattle St in Harvard Square, Cambridge. To purchase tickets and for more information go to the ART’s website, amrep.