Kate Czajkowski and Keith J. Conallen in Don Juan Comes Home from Iraq. Photo by Alexander Iziliaev.
The Wilma Theater's world premiere production of Paula Vogel's new play, Don Juan Comes Home from Iraq, has already received media attention from the Philadelphia Inquirer and The Huffington Post. The production and its intensive two-year development process were supported by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage.
"Wow," writes Toby Zinman in the Philadelphia Inquirer. "Paula Vogel's new play, Don Juan Comes Home from Iraq at The Wilma Theater, is a powerful anti-war play. It is also powerfully theatrical and emotionally and intellectually challenging. In other words, it's terrific." Read more >
Also at the Philadelphia Inquirer, A.D. Amorosi describes the production as "the result of an unusual two-year collaboration of playwright [Paula Vogel], director [Blanka Zizka], and, at the beginning, people who had lived it: actual veterans. Only after countless writing and listening sessions with men and women just back from (or still part of) the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, after forming an acting company before there was a script, after hours of primal theatrical exercises—only then did Don Juan Comes Home from Iraq emerge." Read more >
"The production," writes Charles Isherwood for the New York Times, "is mostly staged on a sleek black platform that tilts up and down and back and forth. This impressive bit of stagecraft from the set designer Matt Saunders suggests the rough terrain of combat as well as the wayward shifting of Don Juan's mind, increasingly beset by dark fantasies and ghosts." Read more >
At The Huffington Post, Molly Blake points to the development process of Don Juan as an example of how theater can deepen our collective understanding of social and political issues: "The collective stories and personal accounts served as a muse for Vogel, who admits that as a civilian it's a challenge for her to accurately portray an experience such as war, but thanks to the honest accounts from vets, she was able to shape this modern day Don Juan." Read more >
In Ms. Magazine, Holly L. Derr discusses how Vogel's script addresses ideas and themes intrinsically linked to war, which are not always addressed in current affairs: "In Don Juan Comes Home from Iraq, Vogel shows us bodies yearning to feel pleasure amidst great pain, bodies drawn together by risking their lives side by side, and bodies torn apart by IEDs, psychological trauma, and poverty. The play, even in it's non-realism, provides a more realistic perspective on war than any jingoistic Hollywood film could, and challenges the audience to see and accept a reality that most would rather sweep under the rug." Read more >
In Philadelphia Magazine, Hannah Feinberg writes, "The play, penned by Pulitzer-winner Paula Vogel and directed by Blanka Zizka, is beautifully staged and lit (courtesy of Matt Saunders and Thom Weaver) with a brave [...] exploration of the moral conundrums of modern war. This is not the first Don Juan to sleep his way through stage and story, but he is the one most achingly now." Read more >
"For [director Blanka] Zizka, this collaborative process has been a catalyst to explore a new approach to mounting plays that make it more creatively engaging," writes Lewis Whittington at Edge on the Net. "With it, the Wilma creative team is trying to break the status quo, or as she puts it, the 'assembly line way' plays are produced by companies. [Paula] Vogel explains, 'We've been doing workshops with war veterans in Philadelphia for the past year. It was something that I asked for because I thought it would be something that would ground me—in terms of their voices." Read more >
Mark Cofta of Philadelphia CityPaper describes the show as "what theater should be," writing, "Zizka, the designers and the actors—everyone involved in this monumental production—work with committed intensity. [...] Vogel wisely resists easy answers. There are none: This is war. Because of this honesty, Don Juan Comes Home from Iraq may become the definitive portrayal of America's 21st-century war experience." Read more >
HowlRound features an in-depth conversation between Vogel and Zizka on Don Juan's development process, in which Vogel states, "This collision, this wonderful creative collision of voices in the room—I've never in my life worked like this. It's amazing. For the first time I feel like a company member. And I'm working for people whose voices I'm hearing. [...] I think this is the great thing for companies—it's more of a call and response than a synthetic piece of work. You keep the multiple voices alive when you work this way. It's so thrilling." Read more >