A MASTERFUL “MAN OF LA MANCHA” AT CONNECTICUT REP


BONNIE GOLDBERG

Rarely in the history of musical theater has there been a play with the majesty and power of “Man of La Mancha,” a story within a story that portrays courage and idealism wrapped in a fragile coating of possible madness. The tale of Don Quixote is one such example of greatness.

 

If Don Quixote had a middle name, it would surely be Idealist or Dreamer. A gallant and brave individual driven by unrealistic goals, he rides off to battle giants even if they are really windmills, envisions castles when they are actually only humble inns and courts ladies who are in fact lowly scullery maids.

 

To meet the classically heroic figure of Don Quixote, one must journey to the Connecticut Repertory Theatre on the campus of the University of Connecticut by Saturday, June 16 to witness Dale Wasserman’s legendary tale of the “Man of La Mancha.”

 

When Miguel de Cervantes, poet, playwright, actor and tax collector is thrown into prison and forced to plead his case before the Spanish Inquisition, he finds to his dismay that his fellow prisoners want to put him on trial first. They charge him with being an idealist, a poet and an honest man. In his defense, he conjures up a charade, an entertainment, a tale of a country squire turned knight, one Don Quixote.

 

Using the inmates as his actors, Cervantes, magnificently portrayed by Terrence Mann, plays his hero who sallies forth into battle to slay dragons and rescue fair maidens. Mann was born to play this role. With his trusty servant Sancho Panza, a loyal and adaptable and affable Richard Ruiz at his side spouting proverbs of encouragement, Don Quixote first faces the Great Enchanter, a giant with many arms, that to some might resemble a windmill.

 

Soon he seeks shelter at a nearby castle, wanting hospitality from the lord (Alex Gibson), who for all the world looks like a mere keeper of an inn. But it is when Quixote’s eyes behold the unkempt maid, whom he claims as his Dulcinea, a fiery and fierce Alix Paige, that his illusions truly take wing. Is he a mad man or the sanest of us all?

 

Musical numbers soar from the title song to the lyrical “Dulcinea,” the sweetness of “Little Bird,” the laughter of “I Really Like Him” to the power of “The Impossible Dream.” This production is gallantly directed by Vincent J. Cardinal who leads a troupe of truly talented performers to glory.

 

For tickets ($10-42), call the Harriet S Jorgensen Theatre, at 860-486-2113 or online at www.crt.uconn.edu. Performances are Tuesday Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., and Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.

 

Come early to experience the wonderful display of costumes, dress from the Industrial Age, 1850-1900, onĀ  view next door in the gallery until August 17. Exhibit curator Laura Crow has done an outstanding job of collecting Victorian women’s clothing that depicts the beauty and style of the times.

 

Experience theater at its best as you travel across the dusty Spanish plains with a slightly foolish knight who dreams of attaining honor and chivalry.

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