Sunday, September 24, 2017

Man of La Mancha brings starry eyed ideals to the Shakes.


I had sketched the set being built for Man of La Mancha, at the Orlando Shakespeare Theater (812 E Rollins St, Orlando, FL 32803) so I was curious to see the show. I knew that a large hole had been opened in the stage floor to allow for a rotating stage and trap door. For that reason, I was very curious to see the set in action. The stage is set in the round, meaning the play can be seen from all sides. Pam Schwartz and I sat in the Bard section which was a new section set up for this production. The orchestra was hidden behind prison bars on a platform behind us. Much of the staging had the actors facing the center section which was across from us but there were only a few times when it was uncomfortable to have the action facing away from us.

In the opening scene, Cervantes, (Davis Gaines) is exiled to a dungeon. Inmates of the prison go through his possessions and plan a trial so they can take everything. In his defense Cervantes stages a play and invited prisoners to take parts in the production. He opens a theatrical make up case and turns himself into Don Quixote who is an idealist, a dreamer who imagines himself living a virtuous and heroic life. Sancho Panza, his companion (Matt Zambrano) followed dutifully on his adventures as squire. Just then they came in sight of thirty or forty windmills that rise from the plain. Don Quixote fights the windmills that he imagines are giants. "The scariest dragons and fiercest giants usually turn out to be no more than windmills."

The staging for this production was pretty amazing. A large drawbridge lowered down to the stage with loud and sinister sounding moving gears. The entire theater felt dank and foreboding. The sounds of water droplets falling echoed in the space as the audience took to its seats. The center stage area could turn like a record on a turntable allowing characters to march in place, or circle. The center area was a rising platform which Don Quixote stood on when he triumphantly proclaimed his ideals and love. The beautiful Aldoneza (Laura Hodos) was a dispassionate and callous woman. She considered all men to be the same, all wanting just one thing. When Quixote saw her he was smitten and imagined her to be the most virtuous woman he had ever seen. He called her Dulcinea. She was annoyed that he didn't see her as she was, but ultimately she let her defenses down, needing to understand his ideals despite the everyday horrors.

This was a fun night of stellar theater. I was very impressed with the production. Donkey's were portrayed with large paper mache heads. They pulled tiny carts that acted as the saddle for the heroic protagonist and his side kick. I have to confess that I had to wipe away tears as Aldoneza proclaimed herself to be Don Quixote's idealized Dulcinea when she sang to him in his darkest hour.

The signature song in this musical is "The Impossible Dream" and Davis Gaines singing at the end of the first act brought the audience to it's feet. I scratched away at the page in the dark, not sure of the result and hopeful anyway. As the lights came up, I saw the results and quickly strove to make sense of the madness.

Go see this show. For a magical moment escape from your everyday reality. “Too much sanity may be madness - and maddest of all: to see life as it is, and not as it should be!”  -Don Quixote. 

The show runs through October 8.



All artwork is for sale. Some originals available as well as limited edition prints. Commissions upon request. Please contact artist.

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