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Devil-may-care comedy of sex



The laughs and the break-neck pace never let up in Theatre Downtown's hilarious production of "Don Juan in Chicago." Penned by David Ives, who may be the most clever American playwright now working, this raucous retelling of the romantic's adventures is full of his wit and word play.

Don Juan (Anthony James Holsten), a 30-year-old virgin, desperately wants to live forever and makes a pact with the delightfully evil Mephistopheles (Steve Gardiner) for immortality. In the small print is a clause that demands that the Don make love to a different woman every day.

Enter Dona Elvira (Aviva Christie), who finally consummates her one-sided infatuation with Don Juan before he deserts her. Elvira makes her own deal with the devil whereby she will live forever or until she sleeps with Don Juan one more time. Thus begins a 400-year pursuit, with Don Juan's also immortal servant, Leporello (John Connon), along for the ride.

The final two acts of the comedy take place in contemporary Chicago, where a weary Don is finding it more difficult to find eligible women and to avoid the persistent Elvira. He brings home Sandy, a woman with "major issues," who is pursued by her jealous boyfriend Todd (Michael Roddy). Add into the fray neighbor Mike (Andy Wright) and his girlfriend, Zoey (Erin Searcy), who may or may not have a relationship with the Don.

There's not a weak link in the entire cast. In particular Holsten's Don is alternatively naive and world-wise, and Connon is an absolute stitch as his servant sidekick. The lovely Christie gives a feminist strength to the role of Elvira. As the oversexed date from hell, Davis injects high-octane into the already cruising comedy. And Roddy's ineffectual attempts at revenge are equally comic.

Also impressive is Rob Munster's intricate set that shifts from the Don's 17th-century castle to his modern Chicago apartment. Fran Hilgenberg's telling costumes set the respective periods and reveal the disintegration of the Don's efforts with '70s-era disco shirts.

Director Aaron Babcock heightens the fun using extensive audience interaction in this devilishly delightful summertime treat that -- as rhyming Ives would put it -- beats the heat.

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