Review : 'Man of La Mancha' at Artes de la Rosa Cultural Center for the Arts

Juliana Adame

Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN

Man of La Mancha is the musicalized, timeless classic following Don Quixote, which was originally thrust upon the theatre community and the world, fifty years ago. It won the Tony Award for Best Musical in 1965. The original production ran for six more years, jumping from theatre to theatre on the Great White Way. Since then, it has spawned four Broadway revivals, the last in 2002, not to mention a film adaption in 1972, starring Peter O’Toole and Sophia Loren as the leading man and his dulcinea, and penned by the original book writer, Dale Wasserman, from the Broadway run.

The story of Don Quixote is a story within a story as told by the original scribe Miguel de Cervantes, who has been arrested with his manservant by the Spanish Inquisition on the charge of entertainment that was offensive to the Inquisition. Cervantes finds himself cornered by the other prisoners in the form of a mock trial, threatening to destroy his only worldly possessions, including the manuscript of the story to follow. It is here that we are introduced to aging nobleman Don Quixote, who is a hero in his own mind, along with only his faithful right hand man Sancho as the two make their way to a local inn, where he finds his “dulcinea”, or lady love, who is a downtrodden whore named Aldonza. Events transpire in both the reality of the Spanish prison, and in the world of the great knight.

This new take on an old classic is under the direction of Adam Adolfo; rather than the traditional period piece, the production takes place in a modern asylum and brings to light undertones of PTS. It’s extraordinary how well this innovative new take works in a modern retelling. 

The costumes, also designed by the gloriously innovative and edgy Adolfo, are modern, sporting a range of modern military garb, complete with gas masks and bullet proof vests. The set, designed by Bradley Gray, is simple- blank grey washed walls with a metal door and a bleak feel- keeping the asylum look as a neutral backdrop, and allowing for multiple entrances, for various effects. Every piece is utilized creatively, and the set changes, small though they are, are seamless.

Lights and sound, designed by Lisa Miller and Mark Howard, enhance the modern military struggle with PTS, in the form of strobes, whirring gobos, and voiceovers from real news stories during the preshow and intermission.

Leading man Martin Antonio Guerra is a gentle soul with the voice of a Broadway great. He perfectly embodies the undeniable kindness of Don Quixote while being an unstoppable vocal force. Truly no one could have been better in the role.

As his dulcinea, Sarah Powell is an unstoppable whirlwind of force, giving a fiery performance as the brazen, cheated Aldonza. Her sharp tongue contrasts greatly with her gorgeous soprano tones as she weaves Aldonza’s pain and self loathing into every glorious note. She is a vision.

The show presents a very strong ensemble cast, but just as notable as Guerra and Powell are Harris as The Governor and Goza as Sancho, who completely hold their own against the leading team, complete with some serious power notes and an acting game as strong as their smoky eyes. Bravo on both counts, gentlemen.

This particular telling of the classic tale of the great Don Quixote is like nothing ever seen before- the gorgeous score stands the test of time in this whole new telling. . Whether one is a fan of the original, or just a stickler for the old ways, this is a production worth seeing. It’s edgy, innovative, sexy, and bursting at the seams with powerhouse performances. It’s not to be missed by any storyteller nor any lover of theatre.

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