Review: The Libertine

by Lynn on January 13, 2017

in The Passionate Playgoer

At Park Place Theatre at the Mady, Barrie, Ont.

Written by Thomas Shadwell
Directed and adapted by Jeannette Lambermont-Morey
Set, costumes and props by Cathy Elliott
Lighting by Jareth Li
Composed by Dimitar Pentchev
Fight Director, Simon Fon
Cast: Benjamin Blais
Edward Charette
Mikaela Davies
Jakob Ehman
Ruby Joy
Tiffany Martin
Theresa Tova
Tim Walker

A bracing production of a play written in the 17th century that is as timely as today.

The Story. This is a retelling of the Don Juan story, or a 17th century character, as seen from the women’s point of view. Don John lives totally for pleasure and killing anyone who gets in his way. He seduces any woman he wants by sweet-talking her, having his way with her and then leaving her for his next conquest.

Even when a woman is to be married, if he wants her he has her, and sometimes kills the intended husband. He is not above hurting a woman who is not agreeable. He is charming and dangerous, a lethal combination.

He travels with two other men, Don Antonio and Don Lopez, equally as lustful and dangerous.

The Production
. Director Jeannette Lambermont-Morey has envisioned a production that is simply designed but throbbing with sexual desire, danger, and life. Cathy Elliott’s set is a large table, used by the men to jump onto, swords drawn. A glittery moveable structure is maneuvered around the stage to easily suggest a change of scene. The men dress in modern black jeans, boots and revealing shirts if at all. Don John and his fellows live to carouse. His servant Jacomo just lives to continue living. He is constantly fearful that Don John will run him through with his sword, just for fun when he (Don John) is annoyed.

Jakob Ehman plays Don John with a compelling stare at his opponents; a come-hither look to the women he wants to seduce, and a ready rapier that can slice and parry in a flash. He is dangerous in his quietness. He does not have to raise his voice when a raised eye-brow is just as lethal in terrifying his opponents. Ehman’s boyishness works for Don John in seduction because what woman would resist that bad-boy attitude

Ehman is ably supported by Benjamin Blais as Don Antonio, loud, lusty and properly unsubtle. Edward Charette as Don Lopez is more laid back than Blais, but just as much trouble in a fight. And as the fearful Jacomo, Tim Walker is a wonderful jelly-fish of a man. He knows his ‘master’ is scum but can’t do anything about it because he’s too afraid to try.

Theirs is a world without rules, conscience or responsibility. No moral compass is at work with these men. They see a woman and take what they want. No law hold them accountable. If you want to think Jian Ghomeshi or Donald Trump you got it in one.

While this is a terrific production for the clean concept, direction and acting, Simon Fon deserves special mention as the fight director.

He has created sword fights for both the men and the women they seduce and they are breathtaking. This is a world of formality in the sword-play but ruthlessness in the execution. The sabers flash and slice the air; the fighters are fearless (even the women when they defend themselves). It’s no use being afraid (Fon of course has done everything to ensure the safety of his cast); the fights are meant for you to react as if a hand is slowly gripping your throat. You are both breathless and exhilarated.

Comment. Bravo to Jakob Ehman who had the idea to do The Libertine—alas so rarely done—to Arkady Spivak who programmed it for Talk Is Free Theatre, and to Jeannette Lambermont-Morey for bringing such a timely adaptation and sterling production to life

Talk is Free Theatre presents:

Opened: Jan. 6, 2017
Closes: Jan. 14, 2017.
Cast: 8; 4 men, 4 women
Running Time: 90 minutes.

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