Moliere mishap in Central Park; Don Juan; Comedy by Moliere. Directed by Richard Foreman. Translated by Donald M. Frame.
The New York Shakespeare Festival has launched its 1982 Central Park season with a grotesque travesty of Moliere's ''Don Juan.'' Director-designer Richard Foreman has devised a noisy piece of gimmicky pretentiousness that substitutes affectation for style, coarseness for wit, distraction for diversion, and grossness for grace. The goings-on are simultaneously campy and crude.
In this trimmed and warped version of Moliere's dark 17th-century satire about an unrepentant rake and a hypocritical society, Don Juan (John Seitz) postures and poses as a stentorian-voiced ranter with a mincing, sidewise gait and a mock-classic manner. An antifeminist Dona Elvire (Pamela Payton-Wright) is given a scene of self-flagellation. The statue of the Commander (George McGrath) resembles a rubber-masked Frankenstein monster.
The cast includes an extraneous gaggle of masked and chalk-faced courtiers. They perform a prologue Maypole dance, move props and furniture, chorus comments , and engage in absurd dumb-show antics. The image of the peasants, with their anachronistic colloquialisms, appear to have been imported from Dogpatch, USA.
Under the circumstances, Roy Brocksmith (Sganarelle) probably comes off as well as might be expected. Mr. Brocksmith achieves at least some of the remonstrating servant's laughs by honest comic playing. But the most genuine moment of dramatic truth in this gagged-up burlesque occurs with the brief appearance of Christopher McCann as the Poor Man.
Designed in monochrome, with ornate costumes by Patricia Ziprodt and wigs by Charles Lo Presto, the revival at the Delacorte Theater is said to be a more extravagantly lighted restaging of the version Mr. Foreman mounted at the Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis. The blazing illumination is by Spencer Mosse.
''Don Juan'' is scheduled to run through July 24. After that, producer Joseph Papp promises a very beautiful production of Shakespeare's ''A Midsummer Night's Dream,'' due to start performances July 30. Let us hope.