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Theater Review:

Spectacular performances all around

March 10, 2010|By James Famera

The story of Don Juan is not unfamiliar. His name alone invokes images of an insatiable Casanova, capable of sweeping women off their feet with a mere glance. “Don Juan Dispenso,” the title character in Tony Tanner’s new play at Burbank’s Missing Piece Theater, is not unlike the miscreant for which he takes his name.

He is charming, good looking and preys on women young and old. Given the familiar subject matter, the material could have easily fallen victim to cliche, but the spectacular performances by the ensemble cast, led by Ahmad Enani in the title role, give way to one of the most interesting plays you’ll see this season.

Set in the 1920s and ’30s, in the same European countries where romance is the native dialect, we enter upon Don Juan as a man of 18. He’s in his bedroom, a black bed that serves as the set’s centerpiece, accompanied by his Uncle Max’s (Jan Johnson) daughter, Constanza. It’s obvious that Constanza (Gina Manziello) is in love with Don Juan and wants him to be her first. But Don Juan resists. “You make love sound like a bad thing,” she tells him, before he finally succumbs to her siren song.

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It may have looked as if Constanza lured Don Juan into bed, but we soon learn from Sam, the narrator and Don Juan’s personal chauffeur, that his resistance was a calculated act by a man well versed in the art of seduction. Sam is somewhat envious of Don Juan’s ease with women, yet never fails to make light of him.

“He really shouldn’t have a play written about him,” Sam jokes.

Almost from the moment he walks onstage, there’s the sense that Sam is too good for Don Juan. What’s keeping him there, we wonder? Why won’t he just pack his bags and leave? Well he does eventually, but only after he witnesses his boss rape a 17-year-old American girl in a bitter act of revenge (turns out her parents took advantage of Don Juan a few years back). By that time, Sam has endured all he can, and although Don Juan proclaims that he doesn’t need Sam, he is certain to fall from grace without him.

Enani not only looks the part of a dashing Don Juan, with his mane of black hair and brooding good looks, but also plays the role to absolute perfection. As an audience, we know his florid language serves only as a means to lure women into his bedroom, yet we can’t help but sit back in awe as he reels them in.

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