“Don Juan” by Moliere, dir. Peter Kurzawa at the Polish Theater in Warsaw. Temida Stankiewicz-Podhorecka writes in “Nasz Dziennik”.
Photo: Marta Ankiersztejn/mat. Stage
We currently have two different productions of Moliere’s “Don Juan” on the lists of Warsaw theaters: at the Ateneum, the show was directed by Mikowaj Grabowski (which I wrote about some time ago in “Nasz Dziennik”), and in the Polish theater – Pyotr Kurzawa. On this occasion, today some ideas for the gradation of the classics stand out.
At the present time, it is rare to present a classic play taking into account the era to which it relates and the translation in which the translator reliably translates the original text, and does not write his own “work”, ignoring the author of the drama, his thought, message and sentence structure, for example, of a poetic nature. How many classic plays in foreign languages are currently being watched in stages in a completely modern translation. Only that modern translators often give their perception of the world represented, and not the author of the play. By these “modern” scales the theater loses a lot, often slipping away from the most important thing in a particular work, and here anarchy and falsehood appear. I know that using the words “classic”, “classic staging” today smells of mothballs and doesn’t serve the director’s glory, but rather drowns him out, putting the primitive traditionalists in line. This insane quest for directors to update classics has – in my opinion – two reasons. The first is when the creator treats the viewer as a dumb idiot who will not understand the play unless the director translates it into a novelty, immersed in visual and linguistic vulgarity. The second reason is pride. Both reasons are unacceptable. Art and theater require the humility of the artist. Especially when he deals with a great work in which the author included deep and important content. And these – despite the passage of time – are always universal and do not need to be “transformed” into novelty.
This is the deep and timeless content of Don Juan. This is the most important work of Molière. And the most distinctive – both in terms of the content and the message that it carries, as well as in the artistic dimension. It is perfectly edited in terms of drama, character structure, narrative. It is enough for the director to trust Molière and follow the letter of the text. But this is rare, because often the management ideas are endless. Of the many productions of Don Juan I had the opportunity to watch, only a few were faithful to the masterpiece of comedy. Fortunately, the performance on the Polish stage is not subject to the dictates of political correctness, does not change gender characters, etc. Also when it comes to interpreting Molière’s text, director Peter Kurzawa does not perform the postmodern deconstructions that are so frequent today. It is, in a sense, a classically directed production. This is so important that, after all, Moliere’s text stimulates deeper reflections on questions of good and evil, guilt and punishment, hypocrisy, the truths of faith and hypocrisy, as well as about who I really am and what values are. I support.
For Molière, Don Juan is a wealthy, seduced and liberated gentleman who not only believes in God, but believes in nothing at all. What an atheist today. He is proud and only recognizes complete freedom, so he does not accept any rules that restrict his freedom. He is a follower of the philosophy of pleasure, and he uses life as much as possible, without any scruples because it comes at the cost of the misfortunes of others, especially women. Nobody likes. The opposite of Don Juan is his servant, Sganarel. As a representative of the realm of Christian values, Sganarel believes in God and eternal life, and therefore in reward and punishment after death. The struggle of these two completely different characters into the world often leads to a conflict, adding to the drama of the play.
It is a pity that in the performance of Peter Kurzawa these most important elements, especially philosophical questions and worldview, are not clarified. Thus, the metaphysical dimension of art, which is so important for Molière, is unclear (the figure of the leader, speaking in the voice of Andrzej Seweryn, evokes joy in the audience). The technical side of the show failed, in terms of directing or acting. Unfortunately, Krzysztof Kwiatkowski as Don Juan’s title is unconvincing. Lack of clarity in character building, spelling can be improved, some lines are barely audible. In addition, the character of Don Juan is not visible, since Sganarel completely controlled him – brilliantly played by Adam Pedrzeki. Also awesome Pawe Krucz as the very funny Pietrek has good scenes in the performance. It is a pity that the element of guilt and punishment, so important in the text, is not emphasized enough here, as evidenced, inter alia, is an unsuccessful final. The lack of internal tension between the characters weakens the drama, slows the pace of work and causes boredom. And this strange group has nothing to do with the text, especially the large gauntlet on the back wall of the platform.