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Like most in the metropolis, the Urban Man would like to master it. You know...it. I'm sure I don't have to spell it out. If I just leave the blank, your mind should fill with tumultuous images: late nights, pouty billboards, closed drapes, rounded forms, gentle preludes and symphonic endings. If it is, as they say, the underlying force that creates everything from tall buildings to dark restaurants, then it needs no introduction.
Now, here in L.A., lots of people claim mastery of it: not just therapists and fashionistas, but yoga instructors, drummers, and basketball stars...not to mention the producers of reality TV shows and random passersby on Hollywood Boulevard.
Last week, however, the Urban Man decided to go straight to the true maestro, the classic sage...in this case, Don Juan. You remember Don Juan: climber of balconies, violator of marriages, unrepentant stealer of a thousand hearts. He was big a couple centuries back.
It wasn't actually that difficult to find him. I simply took the 5 out to Glendale. There I parked behind the theater called A Noise Within, where he was appearing in a Molière play from 1665.
Me, I always find exquisite pleasure in climbing the three antique floors of A Noise Within, all the way to the full thrust stage where they do nothing but classics: Shakespeare, Chekhov.
The acting may be the best in L.A. — I mean, these repertory types really dig into character and idea. Then again, when it comes to it, maybe you don't want character or idea. And yes, it being what it is, I let my mind fill with 17th century images as the lights dim: laced bodices, embroidered skirts, metaphoric swords.
When Don Juan enters in a loose robe, showing off a fine chest and giddy smile, I'm there. He struts. He brags. He says, "There is no pleasure to compare with the conquest of beauty, and my ambition is that of all the great conquerors who could set no bounds to their desire...I feel it is in me to love the whole world, and like Alexander, still wish for new worlds to conquer."
And I think: Surely the Don has arrived in his natural locale. I mean, take a look around. In the City of Dreams, we never ask, should we do it, only can we do it. Here we also require only new worlds to master.... so why not it itself?
And if the Don is a complete jerk...which of course he is...I have to ask, who knows more about it than a jerk? Surely not a mere therapist or musician. If you did put the Don on some 21st century reality TV show, some overwrought tropical island or Paradise Hotel, he would be the jerk who convinces all the women to sleep with him, and all the men to let him win. Sure enough, in the next scene he seduces two women at once—each so smitten she believes she's the only one.
Still...throughout the play, rumblings are heard offstage. And at the last, heaven sends a messenger to drag Don Juan down to hell. He has only apparently won every battle and stolen every heart, for in the end he gets no prize. In fact, he's voted off the island by G-d Himself.
Like theater audiences for three hundred years, and like watchers of reality shows today, the Urban Man takes a strange satisfaction in the downfall of a too-great lover.
It makes me think: Okay, like the other forces of the universe we think we control, it can be twisted, manipulated, and pressed into service; it can be dragged through the gutter, put on a pedestal, sold up and down the boulevards and splashed across the ever-widening HD screens of the great city. But maybe, just maybe, we will never be allowed to master it ....completely.
Copyright © 2008 Marc Porter Zasada. All Rights Reserved.
Don Juan plays in repertory through May 24 at A Noise Within, 234 South Brand Boulevard, Glendale, CA 91204. Call the box office at 818-240-0910 or go to www.anoisewithin.org.
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