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Nov. 4, 2004
Behind the Stage Door
Don Juan meets a Single Woman


It is not true that life is one damn thing after another; it is one damn thing over and over.

Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950)


'Twas the night before Halloween and opening night of Redwood Curtain's latest, Don Juan in Chicago. Thunder and lightning illuminated 16th-century nobleman, alchemical experimenter and sexual virgin, Don Juan (Nino Degennaro) standing in a pentagram summoning the devil. Even after his chattering manservant Leporello (James Floss) interrupts, the spell takes hold and, in a sudden flash of fire and brimstone, Mephistopheles himself (Ron Halverson) appears.Photo from the play Don Juan in Chicago

Holly Couling as Dona Elvira with Nino Degennaro as Don Juan.

Don Juan wants immortality. Mephistopheles offers a deal: The don must sleep with a different woman every day -- never with the same one twice -- or go straight to Hell.

The first woman to come along is the lovely Dona Elvira (Holly Couling), who confesses her undying love for Don Juan. He talks her into bed and leaves town immediately afterwards. She curses him; wishing him dead at any cost. Mephistopheles reappears and strikes a deal with her. She becomes immortal too and chases Don Juan through time and space until 400 years later, after intermission, when she catches up with him in Chicago.

The sexual revolution is in full swing, he's broke and living in an apartment with hundreds of notebooks, recording the 144,000 women he's seduced in 400 years. "Don Johnson" is bored with immortality, broke and tired of sex and nothing but the endless pursuit of more.

The girl du jour, worldly wise if overly analyzed Sandy (Terry Desch), is pursued by her homicidal boyfriend (Randy Wayne). Don's über-geek neighbor, Mike (Jesse Talbert), seeks advice on how to handle the deliciously exotic Zoey (Mahealani Davis). While ordinary life is prosaic, whenever magic is afoot, the characters speak in rhyme. This oddity alerts Don Juan to the disguised Dona Elvira trying to catch him unawares and seal his eternal doom.

The worst thing about this play is trying to stop laughing long enough to hear the next funny line and the one after that. Playwright David Ives is a master of pleasing his audience, the pacing is madcap, the characters full-bodied and marvelously portrayed. Director Bernadette Cheyne has molded a group of diverse individuals into a dynamic comedic ensemble.

Heidi Caldwell's costumes are amazing. From Mephistopheles' incredible cape to Dona Elvira's slinky Renaissance corset and floating organza ribbons, she captures the period romance and appeal of both the past and the present.

The set also transforms completely due to the paintings and scene design of professional set designer Daniel C. Nyiri. Light design by Monica J. Hubbard and sound by Emily Carpenter and Everson Corrigan grab you by the gut in the first scene and never let go until the final moment.

If you're of an age that might be considered mature, and not offended by bawdy language, adult situations, pyrotechnics, gunplay, freedom of speech and sexual innuendo, do not miss this play. Everyone in the opening night standing room only crowd appeared to love every minute of it. They loved Leporello running out into the crowd, breaking the Fourth Wall and involving them in Don Juan's adventures. They gasped at the brilliant entrances and exits of the maliciously devilish Mephistopheles. They roared at sluttish Sandy and rooted for the slinky Elvira as she declared her undying love/hate relationship with the man she hopes to destroy. They will, undoubtedly tell all their friends and neighbors, so call for your tickets today -- or there may not be any!

Don Juan in Chicago runs Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays through Nov. 20 at 8 p.m. with one Sunday matinee, Nov. 14 at 2 p.m., at the Redwood Curtain Theatre, 800 W. Harris, Eureka. Call 443-7688 or visit for reservations and more information.


One night only, Saturday, Nov. 6, at 8 p.m. at the Ferndale Repertory Theatre: Jeanmarie Simpson performs A Single Woman, a play about Jeannette Rankin, the first woman elected to the United States Congress. Rankin, a suffragette and lifelong pacifist, interacted with most of the greatest of her day; many are portrayed in this piece by Cameron Crain, the play's director. The $10 tickets benefit Arts Everyday, a program that brings the arts, in all its varied forms, into Humboldt schools. Call 786-LIVE for reservations and information or visit their Web site


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