Man of La Mancha as presented by Theater Latte Da is a haunting story that left me with the odd combination of melancholy and hope. A play within a play, and the story of a man who calls himself a knight, Don Quixote, he pictures the world with an unreasonable level of imagination and positivity. A windmill is a dragon, an Inn is a castle and a kitchen maid is a lady. Director Peter Rothstein said that he was inspired by the quote from the book and the show “when life itself seems lunatic who knows where true madness lies?”, the quote goes on to say, “Perhaps to be too practical is madness. To surrender dreams — this may be madness. Too much sanity may be madness — and maddest of all: to see life as it is, and not as it should be!”
Seen through this lens a show that originally was performed in 1965 feels extremely relevant. Peter Rothstein has moved the show from the time of the Spanish Inquisition to the present day. The stage of the Ritz Theater is transformed into a stark waiting room/holding cell of sorts, complete with locked door and guard booth. The author Don Miguel de Cervantes enters the cell with other prisoners and mounts his defense for being a poet in the form of a charade, telling the story of Don Quixote de la Mancha, using the other prisoners as story tellers.
The transition between the prison cell and the story is seamless, as the lights, designed by Marcus Dilliard change into warm colors and simple props are repurposed. Costume changes are made, and masks are worn by most characters to transform the prisoners into the character in Cervantes’ tale (Costume design by Rich Hanson).
The performances are extraordinary and the five piece band lead by Music Director Denise Prosek creates a full sound that transports us to Spain. Martín Solá takes on the roll of Cervantes/Don Quixote, he has a rich voice and finds the balance of his two characters and Don Quixote’s simultaneous struggle and persistence with his chivalrous and impossible dream. Meghan Kriedler is Aldonza, she brings an incredible amount of strength to the role and heart in her transformation. Jon-Michael Reese is particularly funny and entertaining as the Padre, and it doesn’t hurt that he has a wonderful voice as well.
Man of La Mancha is an old musical, but Theater Latte Da has made it brand new. I wish we didn’t need it as much as we do right now, but it is a wonderful piece of theater about standing up for what is right against impossible odds. It is playing at the Ritz Theater in NE Minneapolis until October 22.
Tickets and more information can be found on Theater Latte Da's website here: http://www.latteda.org/man-of-la-mancha
*Photo by Allen Weeks