“Don Juan in Hell” Review – The “Man and Superman” Omission

The cast, left to right: Nate White as Don Juan; Lew Wallace as The Devil; Nellie Ognacevic as Dona Ana de Ulloa; and Mark Habert as The Commander


For many of us, that stellar master of the English language and anti-theist George Bernard Shaw gave the thinking of philosopher Nietzsche perhaps more than his due.   Most productions of Shaw’s “Man and Superman” leave out the third act, a.k.a. “Don Juan in Hell”, which dives deep and wanders widely from a start point on Nietzche terrain.  Rogue Theater, which had been on hiatus for eight years, has decided to make their return to the stage with a full production of “Don Juan in Hell”, describing it as a biting comedy.


With barely a set, barely a room and barely a costume, Rogue Theater does a fine job at presenting “Don Juan in Hell”.   These are the characters of Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” meeting in an imagined hell where all, courtesy of the Devil, are free to pursue their dreams of art, culture and more.  



Dona Ana (Nellie Ognacevic) is newly arrived in hell, wondering why her pious life led her in this direction. 



Don Juan (Nate White) is suffering the ennui of eternity and is at odds with the hell environs, even though it is anything but a fiery pit and perhaps what others might think of as a Shangri La.  The Commander (Mark Habert) is that statue who had dragged Don Juan into hell and who suffers the boredom of heaven most of the time, finding relief periodically by his trips to hell where he enjoys time with his good companions, Don Juan and The Devil.  The Devil (Lew Wallace) is ever a pitchman for his heaven-not, and in this production has the style of a televangelist ad pitchman that will often make you grin. 



In Shaw’s conceit, the doors between heaven and hell are relatively open. 



It’s perhaps most telling that the best laugh lines are the frequent references to how Don Juan does go on and on.  This is not the language feast you have rightfully come to expect from Shaw.  These are verbose polemics piled high and deep.



If you are a serious student of Nietzche and/or love all things Shaw without question put this play on your calendar.   For the rest of us, heed a big, flashing “Tedium Within” warning.


Now through June 28, 2015.


At The Side Project Theater, 1439 West Jarvis Street, Chicago


For tickets visit the Brown Paper Tickets page on this production.




Photos:  Scott Dray

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