A mysterious walk through a tunnel-like entrance which leads to a castle… But not just any castle - spectators are guided to Dom Juan’s infamous abode by his many love interests, each of whom proclaims that he loves her, and her alone.
Thus the audience is ushered in to Theatre Glendon’s latest production playing from March 17th to 20th: Dom Juan by M. Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, a.k.a. Molière. There are actors already on the stage, which is where the audience enters as well, some chatting, others fighting, some tumbling – it is a faithful recreation of a 17th-century performance space (minus the chickens, horses and street vendors).
Molière’s Dom Juan or The Feast with the Statue (Dom Juan ou le Festin de pierre) was based on the Spanish legend of this godless libertine, but firmly set in France. It was the last part in Molière's hypocrisy trilogy, which also includes The School for Wives and Tartuffe. It had a checkered history, hotly criticized by Molière’s contemporaries for what was considered to be offensive to both the Church and the King, and withdrawn after only a few performances. Dom Juan was eventually reworked from prose to verse in a toned-down version and revived after the author’s death. The complete original prose, which is the version staged at Glendon, has only been played again since the late 19th century.
Glendon’s sparse, elegant staging is a stroke of genius, a perfect vehicle for every scene. Using modern-day evening attire for the “men” is also a clever way to recreate the 17th-century world without having to invest in elaborate costumes. One must remember that this is a class production, designed for Glendon Drama Studies 2615, as a result of which many of the male roles are very ably portrayed by women. The director has also found a way to provide a part for every individual in the class, with some of the more minor roles doubling up, for example with 2 Charlottes and 2 Pierrots. As for the actors themselves, the enormous amount of work and concentration that they have obviously invested in this production bears fruit. Everyone has the lines down to perfection. They inhabit their characters and convey the messages of the play clearly and with humour. The haunting, lyrical musical background and the throbbing heartbeat sounds foreshadowing danger support the action on stage to great effect.
The director of the production is the masterful Guillaume Bernardi (left), professor of Drama Studies at Glendon, but also a highly successful and much-honoured artistic director outside, in the theatre world (see article). “During one of the first meetings of the course […] last September, I announced to the students that our production would be a […] Molière play in either one or three acts”, says Bernardi in the program notes. “That seemed to me to be ambitous enough. And here we are, six months later in front of you, the spectators, with a play in five acts and with the reputation of being one of Molière’s most difficult.”
Bernardi’s vision and encouragement enabled this immensely enthusiastic, largely Anglophone group of students to bring the Don Juan legend to life once more, in clear French and occasionally with well-placed regional accents; complete with swordplays, comic moments, and the frissons produced as the stone statue of the Commandant comes to dinner and drags the unrepentant libertine to Hell.
Tickets to Theatre Glendon’s Dom Juan can be reserved by calling 416-487-6822. But hurry, they are quickly selling out.
Submitted by Glendon communications officer Marika Kemeny