Presented by New Rep Theatre
Based on the novel by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra
Book by Dale Wasserman
Music by Mitch Leigh
Lyrics by Joe Darion
Original production staged by Albert Marre
Directed by Antonio Ocampo-Guzman
Music direction by David Reiffel
Movement direction by Judith Chaffee
Review by Kitty Drexel
(Watertown, MA) There were children in attendance the night I saw this production. Please note that while no one is ever undressed and strong language is avoided, MoLM does approach adult themes. Parents unwilling to discuss why a cowardly group of adult men with rage issues would rape a woman because their feelings were hurt should not bring their kids to this musical. Kids the answer is: they do it because they can.
New Rep’s production of Man of La Mancha is excellent. Get your tickets right now.
The musical incorporates the novel Don Quixote into a fictionalized account of author Cervantes’ stint in jail. In it, the actor and playwright Cervantes (Maurice Emmanuel Parent) reenacts his play for the other prisoners about a neurodivergent poet with a hero’s heart. The hidalgo Alonso Quixano (Parent) becomes mad in his retirement and takes to adventuring across the land with his loyal life coach Sancho Panza (Michael Levesque). His mission becomes the objectification of an misused tavern wench named Aldonza (Ute Gfrerer). Cervantes convinces the prisoners of his artistry only to be ushered away to convince the Inquisition of his innocence.
The tickets selling point for many will likely be the promised outstanding performances by Parent, Levesque and Gfrerer. As it should be; the three perform admirably and deserve the accolades. Still recognition must be given to the larger ensemble. The cast creates together an stage environment that lifts up all individual performances. Without such stability provided through trust and camaraderie, the leads would have been good but not nearly so effective. Be it the interpersonal relationships, the direction by Ocampo-Guzman and Reiffel, or the magic of theatre that caused it, the ensemble work is most definitely worthy of praise.
Freedom fighters rejoice, this is a production ripe with topical symbolism. For example, Eric Levenson designed the set to look like the Francoist flag. His use of pillars connotes a land divided, not unified. The plastering of the coat of arms on the back wall conveys the hopelessness of those suffering in jail. The lighting design by Jeff Adelberg casts factual shadows on our villains. If Spanish politics is mocked, it is in recognition of the fascist state’s hypocrisy. Any parallels to the current US political climate are surely intended.
Good art uses the counterfeit to reveal humanity’s truths. Man of La Mancha is the fictional telling of a madman’s ravings. It’s also a beautiful tale about a man brave enough to not only dream but to pursue his dreams despite great opposition from his conservative, risk averse family of brown nosers. The world needs more adventuring dreamers fighting monsters for the greater good.
We elected a thin-skinned Nazi to the office of the President who is turning our “democracy” into a fascist, totalitarian oligarchy dominated by the 1%. Trump is a monster. His policies, when he names them, are destructive. His narcissistic behavior is more so.
Congressional “negotiators” released a spending bill that saves the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for Humanities, and National Public Radio until September at which time, the President and his impotent cronies may still cut arts funding. It is ever important to remain vigilant. And, for the love of all that’s sacred, keep creating. If you need help, ask for it. Our existence is our resistance. May the force be with you. – KD