Man of La Mancha at Capital Repertory Theatre, Review
Man of La Mancha, Capital Repertory Theatre, Review
Broadway Classic, Man of La Mancha, Comes to Capital Rep
He is the maddest wise man …or wisest madman— goes the ponderings of the Padre and the Duke, while looking upon the unbalanced Don Quixote in Man of La Mancha—now playing at Capital Repertory Theatre. The classic play was written by Dale Wasserman over fifty years ago and is playing at Capital Rep through December 17, 2011.
Based on the world’s most widely published novel, Don Quixote, the play takes place in a prison during the Spanish Civil War. It opens when a man, Miguel de Cervantes (also the author’s name), and his manservant, are imprisoned for foreclosing on a church and are awaiting their turn to be presented before the Spanish Inquisition. The men become housed with a group of mean and dirty criminals, and Cervantes finds himself facing not only the Spanish government, but a trial imposed upon him by his fellow inmates.
With the help of this nasty-turned-helpful bunch of crooks, cheats and corrupt cell-mates, Cervantes can plead his defense by telling the story of Don Quixote, thus creating a play-within-a-play, to save his manuscript, the prized possession that is threatened to be burned. He also stands to lose all of his possessions, housed in a trunk that is locked up with them that doubles as the costumes for his defense.
The unpleasant circumstances that Cervantes and his attendant Sancho encounter turn into a reenactment of the life of Don Quixote: the great knight—and windmill slayer. The cast of ne’er-do-wells gladly accept the challenge to get into costume and take cue from Cervantes to help bring his manuscript and defense to life. The action fluctuates smoothly between the real-life circumstances of Cervantes in lock-up—doling out prompts and costumes to his inmate “actors”—and the story of a slightly deranged knight they are portraying.
Kevin McGuire gave an awe-inspiring performance in the role of Cervantes and Don Quixote/Alonso Quijana. The local veteran of Broadway, National and International tours did not disappoint with his passionate and extraordinarily moving vocals. McGuire gave a seamless performance through all of the songs, creating a mesmerizing display of lyrical mastery and sincerity–the best were “Man of La Mancha,” “Dulcinea,” and the famous “The Impossible Dream.”
The standout of the night was Anne Fraser Thomas in her role of Aldonza–Inn wench turned Dulcinea–the apple of Don Quixote’s slightly unhinged mind. Her wide vocal range kept the audience in the intimate theatre riveted. “What Does He Want of Me?” and “Aldonza” were deep-felt, harmonious gems of pure delight. Displaying a masterful physical performance, Thomas (as Aldonza) fought off groping men and was utterly believable in her role.
Robert Anthony Jones, was the evening’s comic relief in his dual roles of Cervantes’ manservant and Quixote’s Sancho. Jones’s one-liners punctuated each scene, and his hilarious execution of “I Really Like Him” was peppered with some truly sensational physical comedy.
Scott Wakefield also turned in a terrific performance, portraying the wild-eyed Governor of the prison and later the Innkeeper who enables whatever Don Quixote’s unstable mind can conger up.
Most of the multifaceted cast played multiple roles, and many were also part of the musical accompaniment–showcasing their additional talents on the drums, guitar, violin and flute.
No doubt for days following, you’ll be thinking of songs like “I’m Only Thinking of Him,” performed by David Sutton, Emily Mikesell, and Shannon Rafferty, as the number—performed in a church confessional setting—nearly stole the show with its layered hilarity halfway through the first act.
The elaborate set design, by Roman Tatarowicz, made the audience feel as if they were inside the dungeon-like prison, which was complete with barred-windows and many doors for characters to disappear and emerge from to continue their play-acting at the mercy of Cervantes. The most amazing, though, was the full set of stairs at near center of the set, which led up to a door where the officers would enter and exit. The stairs were also the star of the opening scene, where Cervantes and his Manservant first entered—meeting their fate of fellow men and women in detention.
In the end, Cervantes won his trial-by-prisoners, through some quick-witted improvisation that added to his “charade” after it ended unresolved and failed to satisfy his new companions. This made him victorious having won the first trial, and saving his possessions and manuscript–handed over to him thoughtfully by the Governor—only to be led up the stairs at the end to face the Inquisition.
Capital Rep’s production of Man of La Mancha was truly outstanding and unforgettable from beginning to end. Don Quixote is a man not willing to see what is really there, the horrors and ills of the world. Through his quest to find good in everything, he can achieve internal happiness. He does so by changing lives as he moves forward, something that resonates with audiences time and time again.
Man of La Mancha plays at the Capital Repertory Theatre through December 17, 2011. Visit www.capitalrep.org for ticket information and times.
–Nicole M. Arciello Berhaupt is an Assistant Editor for The Free George.
The Free George is the online magazine and visitors’ guide of Upstate NY, covering things from Albany to Lake Placid, including Saratoga, the Lake George region and the Adirondacks. Check out our City Blogs section for our extended coverage areas as well.
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