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Man of La Mancha – Shakespeare Theatre Company

Jordan Wright
March 24, 2015
Special to The Alexandria Times
 

 Anthony Warlow as Don Quixote in the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s production of Man of La Mancha, directed by Alan Paul. Photo by Scott Suchman.

Anthony Warlow as Don Quixote in the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s production of
Man of La Mancha, directed by Alan Paul. Photo by Scott Suchman.

Set Designer Allen Moyer’s two-story iron grid with drop down catwalk provides the stark background for Director Alan Paul’s revival of Man of La Mancha now playing at the glamorous Sidney Harman Hall.  Set in a bleak Spanish prison during the time of the Inquisition, the beloved musical is loosely based on Cervantes 17th century neo-biography, “The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha” – – a man known for tilting at windmills and spinning a tale or two which is precisely what he must do to stay alive in this den of iniquity where the prisoners become the masters of the Inquisition.

While awaiting their sentences, Quixote’s fellow prisoners charge him with being an idealist and bad poet in their own mock trial.  In order to spare his life and keep his only manuscript of a play he has written, he cuts a deal with them.  He will present his defense in the form of a charade using them as the characters in an epic adventure of knights, wizards, warlocks and maidens.  And in the way of that great Arabian storyteller, Scheherazade, who saved her own life with 1001 tales, he devises a play in which he is an old man on an indefinable quest and his motley cellmates fulfill the other roles.  In doing so he empowers the lowly to dream beyond their dismal lives and achieve a modicum of dignity.  Ever the optimist Quixote insists, “Too much sanity may be madness.”

 Amber Iman as Aldonza and Anthony Warlow as Don Quixote in the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s production of Man of La Mancha, directed by Alan Paul. Photo by Scott Suchman.

Amber Iman as Aldonza and Anthony Warlow as Don Quixote
Photo by Scott Suchman.

His slightly daft but ever-faithful squire, Sancho Panza (Nehjal Joshi), is a veritable font of proverbs. Quixote (Alan Warlow) soon engages them all in his life-affirming chimera as the hapless sidekick with his charmingly goofy brand of loyalty provides much of the show’s comic relief.

Through his narrative he casts the rough-hewn Aldonza (played by the lovely and dulcet-voiced Amber Iman) as his fair maiden, “A knight without a lady is like a body without a soul”, and he insists on calling her Dulcinea, a name he invents to lend a softer side to her low birth.

Iman, Warlow, Joshi, Martin Sola as The Padre and Robert Mammana as The Duke and Dr. Carrasco are all spectacular with Iman and Warlow bringing down the house with their solos.  Add to that a beautiful partnership between Lighting Designer Robert Wierzel who skillfully evokes the paintings of Goya and other Spanish masters of the period; Costume Designer, Ann Hould-Ward, who plays on that dynamic; and Choreographer, Marcos Santana, who amps up the scenes with slapstick, sword fights and bench dancing (yes!) into every scene that has motion.

 Sidney DuPont (Paco), Joey Elrose (Juan), James Hayden Rodriguez (Jose), Ceasar F. Barajas (Pedro), JP Moraga (Tenorio), Nathan Lucrezio (Anselmo), and Robert Mammana (The Duke) in the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s production of Man of La Mancha, directed by Alan Paul. Photo by Scott Suchman.

Sidney DuPont (Paco), Joey Elrose (Juan), James Hayden Rodriguez (Jose), Ceasar F. Barajas (Pedro), JP Moraga (Tenorio), Nathan Lucrezio (Anselmo), and Robert Mammana (The Duke)
 Photo by Scott Suchman.

Many will thrill to Composer Mitch Leigh’s and Lyricist Joe Darion’s sweeping orchestration and twenty memorable songs.  “To Dream the Impossible Dream”, “Dulcinea”, “I, Don Quixote, Man of La Mancha” and “I’m Only Thinking of Him”, iconic numbers from this classic musical that are brought to life by an 11-member orchestra under the deft direction of George Fulginiti-Shakar.

This is a must-see production of a must-see musical.

Through April 26th at the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Sidney Harman Hall at 610 F Street, NW, Washington, DC 20004. For tickets and information contact the box office at 202 547-1122 or visit www.ShakespeareTheatre.org.

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