MAN OF LA MANCHA – Book by Dale Wasserman; Music by Mitch Leigh; Lyrics by Joe Darion; Directed and Choreographed by Kelly Van Oosbree; Music Directed by Bonnie Simcox. Produced by Platte Valley Players Theatre Company (Presented at the Armory Performing Arts Center, 300 Strong Street, Brighton) through November 4th. Tickets available at 720-263-2878 or email@example.com.
When you see as much theatre as I do, sometimes it’s hard to separate the art from the craft. It is easy to sit in an audience and think “Oh, (fill in the name) is doing a really great job with that song,” or “(fill in the female name) looks really great in that costume.” “Look how well the ensemble is dancing together” or “This is an interesting story, but you know they are going to get together in the end.” Whether you know the actor’s work or not, it’s sometimes easy to see them as actors doing good work, rather than the characters they are playing. When viewing this production of MAN OF LA MANCHA, a familiar tale, I found myself instead thinking of what the characters were experiencing, their quality of life, their unified hope for something better. Instead of thinking Jeffrey is amazing in this role, I was thinking “Oh, Don Quixote is going to be so hurt, so disappointed when he finds out what they have done to her.” Or “How is Dulcinea going to survive this? What will it do to her?” It was a glorious feeling to lose myself in the magic of the play in the hands of these committed players.
Our “fill in the name” in this production is Jeffrey Parker as Cervantes, the playwright and actor and Don Quixote, the noble character he is performing in his own play. Jeffrey was completely immersed in his roles, was having fun play-acting, and yet dedicated to telling his story that embodies the finest human qualities. He was gentle, brave, determined and a little bit crazy . . . in the nicest possible way. His voice was glorious and inspiring.
His counterpart was Lindsey Falduto who played Aldonza, the foul-mouthed tramp who had seen the worst of life, had no hope of a better future, and was a bitter broken woman. The flip side of her character came to life when she began to believe in the possibility of Quixote’s beliefs about her, when he saw her as a beautiful woman of worth, and when she felt valued for the first time in her life. Watching this transformation was breathtaking. Her voice is wistful, angry, powerful, and heartbreaking.
Usually played only for its comic relief, the role of Sancho, Quixote’s faithful manservant, found new depth and new compassion in the hands of George Zamarripa. His puppy-like devotion to Quixote is tempered with both a sense of reality and a dogged desire to make his master’s dreams come true. He was a pure column of compassion and care.
This story of valor and dreams was being performed for and by simultaneously the men and women of the homeless camp. Each was offered and performed both a part in the story and a role in the reality of their lives. They started out as an argumentative group of people in a hard place and grew to become a band of friends with a determination to better themselves – even if it seemed an impossible dream. Special kudos to Doug Herman as The Governor who led the action as the head bad guy; Adam Luhrs in multiple roles all done well; Jacob McCrory as the sympathetic but helpless Innkeeper; and Vern Moody as the oldest in the camp who became The Padre singing “To Each His Dulcinea” about his own lost dreams. As an ensemble, their laser focus on telling this story was amazing to watch. They slid in and out of the minor characters with ease and fell back into the camp-dwellers when the time came with equal comfort. And sang their little hearts out.
The homeless camp setting gave the opportunity to have junk-like props on the stage that were cleverly used to become everything from swords to horses to shields to windmills. Benches were moved in various configurations to form the tavern, the stable, the church and every other location needed. Two ladders were lashed together to form an instrument of torture for Aldonza in a harrowing scene. All gathered and moved in position by the devoted ensemble.
The fourteen-piece orchestra under the leadership of Bonnie Simcox provided the musical support this strong production needed. Nikki Harrison’s costumes often started out as one thing and magically transformed into something else. A padded vest became a pseudo-suit of armor; pans became hats; scarves became aprons and shawls denoting the character’s economic status. My favorite was watching mops become horses eating oats out of buckets.
I have often praised Director Van Oosbree for her ability to use light to form amazing stage pictures and to create mood and movement. She has outdone herself on this production. Not only did she direct, but she had the vision for the setting, created the movement for the dance and stage direction aspects of the production, came up with the clever use of props throughout, AND helped with the painting and construction of the set. A one-woman theatre machine.
It will be hard to get a ticket for this last weekend – but try. You won’t be sorry. If it has all become too late for this one, watch for Kelly’s next production as she works in theatres all over town. Everything she does is worth your attention.
A WOW factor of 9.75!!