Don Juan, or the Love of Geometry, TinFish Productions, at the Athenaeum Theatre. Max Frisch’s 1953 play is an esoteric examination of the myths surrounding the classic antihero Don Juan and the hypocrisy of religious life, morals, and gender roles in Spain’s golden age. By making his Don Juan’s true passion mathematics instead of women, the playwright explores both reason and emotion in human behavior. But Frisch’s take on the myth, using classical language and respecting the manners and mores of Don Juan’s time, is too verbose to be effective: lengthy monologues hit us over the head with his theories over the course of two long acts.
Frisch takes the edge off his philosophizing with humor, poking fun at the manners of the time and our often sentimental view of love. But unfortunately TinFish seldom supplies the necessary comic timing, the physical comedy is sloppily directed, and the chemistry between many of the actors is off: the scenes drag on. Too often the actors substitute screaming for the expression of a range of emotions, from desire to sadness to rage. The best scenes are the simplest ones. For instance, when Donna Inez brushes the hair of Don Juan’s bride to be, Donna Anna, the actresses connect and so invite the audience into their characters’ anxiety and delight before the wedding.
Frisch’s idea of exploring the myths behind our myths is engaging, but in this production neither the emotion nor the intellect in his efforts is clearly communicated.
–Gabrielle S. Kaplan