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PICT’s ‘Don Juan’ never quite seduces viewers |
Theater & Arts

PICT’s ‘Don Juan’ never quite seduces viewers

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
| Monday, August 12, 2013 9:00 p.m
Jasmine Goldband | Tribune-Review
David Whalen as Don Juan with Gayle Pazerski, (left) Lissa Brennan, Catherine Moore and Melinda Helfrich as nuns in Pittsburgh Irish & Classical Theatre’s “Don Juan Comes Back from the War” at Henry Heymann Theatre.

Pittsburgh Irish & Classical Theatre‘s production of “Don Juan Comes Back From the War” is a lot like its title character.

The production wants to be good, but never succeeds in its intention.

The play is a new version of Odon von Horvath’s 1936 original, adapted by British playwright Duncan Macmillan. It’s having its U.S. premiere after being given its debut at the Finborough Theatre in London in 2012.

The drama places the legendary seducer of women in a devastated Berlin that’s devoid of men during the final days of World War I.

As the play opens, he’s a shell-shocked German soldier cavorting in a rooming house with five willing and very naked women. It’s his final fling before reforming, he announces.

But over the next hour and 45 minutes, he wanders through a series of encounters with women without any noticeable efforts to change.

It’s difficult because his rock-star reputation with women precedes him. Women want to be seen with him or cavort with him, and there’s at least who one wants to kill him.

He’s now older but not wiser and hampered by chest pains and an infected stab wound.

But his journey, though eventful, lacks drama and impulse. It doesn’t help that the playwright gives Don Juan no suggestion of focused resolve and allows him to keep mistaking lust for love.

David Whalen is a physically attractive Don Juan. But his character lacks charisma. He’s a remote, detached and self-involved ordinary man stumbling through a series of encounters from which he learns nothing.

He’s given his best chance to reform in the play’s most vibrant scene where actress Nike Doukas in the roleof Mother and one of Don Juan’s early conquests, eloquently spells out a mature understanding of what love really entails.

Doukas and five other women — Melinda Helfrich, Karen Baum, Lissa Brennan, Catherine Moore and Gayle Pazerski — play the 21 females Don Juan encounters with varying degrees of success.

Alan Stanford directs with a laconic pace that gives lingering attention to the smallest of details — the slow-motion unpacking of kitchen implements at the start of one scene or the emptying of a bathtub and the excruciatingly thorough mopping of a floor at the end of another.

The stage is cluttered with props and furniture placed around the edges throughout the play, and though there are several chairs, actors are often called upon to squat rather than use them.

Some props create unnecessary distractions — a dropped knife that inexplicably remains center stage through several scenes and a mop and bucket that draw attention with the expectation that someone will stumble over it.

The result is a show that lasts longer than it should and offers little resolution, redemption or reflection for Don Juan or the audience.

Alice T. Carter is the theater critic for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7808 or

Categories: Theater Arts
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