We loved having Bob and Angie at Forest Meadows. Their devotion to theatre, to Moliere, and to each other was gorgeous to witness. The production was different from anything we'd ever done, and we were proud of it. Rudy Gurerrero was a dashing Don Juan, Thomas Lynch was ideal as Sganarelle, and Darren Bridgett was hilarious (again!) as were LeAnne Rumbel and Mary Knoll.
Bob brought with him a wildly talented whirlwind of a costume designer, the amazing Julie Weiss, who arrived with boxes and boxes from Western Costume and who proceeded to dazzle (and occasionally frustrate) us all with her antic creativity and unusual working methods.
The production got mixed reviews, but everyone agreed it was an artistic challenge tackled with flair.
- Lesley Currier
From the Playbill - Director's Notes:
"Moliere would have loved being done between two Shakespeare comedies. Like Shakespeare he was an actor. However he was not a supporting player, but was known as the greatest comedian in the country. His first job in the theater was at an indoor tennis court the size of our Berkeley Stage Company off San Pablo. His 'illustrious' theater went into debt; he went to jail; and then left Paris to tour 'La France.' He would have known the perils of playing comedy outdoors since he played on wagon stages for peasants in their fields, and, after fifteen years in the provinces when he became the head of King Louis XIV's theater company, he performed at Versailles in open air productions that would dwarf a combination of Radio City Music Hall with the Rolling Stones done in the Rose Garden of the White House in front of an audience comparable to a joint session of Congress. Of course, in a way, Louis himself was comparable to our entire government.
Our play, Don Juan, was first performed not for the King, but in Moliere's own public theater in 1665. The play's roots are in Spanish and Italian theater and it is based on a character which has interested writers like Byron, Balzac, Pushkin, Rostand, Chekhov, and Brecht. And should we add Mozart! Over 100 versions have been noted. Moliere was in a box office slump caused in part by the huge struggle he was engaged in to get the King's permission to allow his verse play Tartuffe to be performed. His choice of subject was one designed to bring the public back into his theater. Don Juan was tempting not only because of the almost mythic stature of the hero as a super seducer, but because the plot required a statue to come to life, to come to dinner, and to tell the hero to go to Hell.
The public in the 17th century was not into reality TV; they loved the new machine plays from Italy. The play opened; box office revived; yet after only fifteen performances the play was pulled out of the repertory and did not reappear on the stage for 150 years. No one really knows why, but if you can imagine writing a play about a most powerful man in society who attacks God and defies Death; then who argues that the way to live is to pretend to be good and do whatever you please as if you were, like Socrates' story of Gyges, invisible...and then, even worse, to put all this questionable morality into a Comedy with farcical scenes from the Old Comedy as well as aria-like speeches and then ask the same kind of powerful hypocrites to come and laugh at themselves...well...one can see possible reasons for the play vanishing from the stages of the French royalty.
In our time the play has had as many productions and as many interpretations as Hamlet. We hope you'll enjoy this one."
- Robert Goldsby