Don Juan in Chicago, TinFish Theatre. TinFish’s ambition exceeds its skill. This naive company can’t do justice to David Ives’s sophisticated meditation on the connection between love and immortality. Director Laurie Kladis pitches the entire show too high: when the lines are this witty, there’s no need to mug. The result is exhausting rather than fast paced, but a few genuine moments poke through and the end is surprisingly moving.
The play posits that Don Juan makes a bargain with the devil: he can be immortal provided he has sex every day, and never with the same woman twice. But his first conquest, Elvira, refuses to be cast aside and chases him down the years and across the seas from 16th-century Spain, until the second act finds him in a grungy Chicago apartment with her still in hot pursuit.
Whenever the devil appears the dialogue shifts from prose into Moliere-style rhymed couplets, a clever convention requiring a level of verbal facility beyond this cast, with the notable exception of Jon Frazier as Mephistopheles. He also seems to be the only one who understands the power of underplaying, though his is the most over-the-top role. As the Don’s servant Leporello, Vincent Lonergan takes a while to settle down but gradually comes to embody the sweet, ordinary mortal love from which his master is barred. Unfortunately Ryan Young’s youth as Don Juan and his lack of chemistry with Jeanne T. Arrigo’s Elvira defeat the supporting cast’s best efforts.