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Don Quixote
Marin Shakespeare Company

Also see Richard's review of Salome, Dance for Me

Ron Campbell
The man from La Mancha is at it again and this time in a new version of Don Quixote by Canadian playwrights Peter Anderson and Colin Heath. Their adaptation is making its United States debut in a two hour and half production for Marin Shakespeare Company at Forest Meadows Amphitheatre in San Rafael starring Ron Campbell, formerly the lead clown in Cirque du Soleil's Kooza.

This brilliant new version is commedia dell'arte at its finest. It's lighthearted and funny, telling of the exploits of the knight from La Mancha and his squire Sancho Panza. Each little vignette is a simple, often seemingly silly scene; however, you do think there is a relationship between reality and imagination.

The production opens on Quixano at his home switching speedily from book to book being handed to him by a five member ensemble. You can see that this man has had missed opportunities in his life. With all of the pressure of reading, he magnificently becomes Don Quixote the Knight of La Mancha. His takes his horse, which is a broomstick with a watering can hanging atop, and sets out to right the wrongs of the world.

The first night finds our intrepid hero at an inn which he thinks is a castle. Here he fights with peasants he thinks are villains. By a strange turn of events he is knighted by the inn keeper. His next famous battle is with the windmills which he thinks are giants. This is cleverly accomplished by the ensemble holding wooden ladders. The knight's battle with a flock of sheep is a sidesplitting battle of pillow-fight hilarity. Some of the pillows get tossed to members in the audience and they in turn toss them back to the stage.

The second act gets into the less familiar part of the book. The knight has been made famous by a book by Cervantes. Here he a meets a royal party (Rick Eldridge as the Duke and Lee Fitzpatrick as the Duchess). He meets a puppeteer (Cassidy Brown, who is splended) who shows him his afterlife. Jed Parsario is pitch perfect, especially as the doctor. He comes to realize that they are all making fun of him. He shows that he is deemed worthy of a knight-errant and sets out to fight the Knight of Mirrors. However, he loses the fight, which leaves him broken and dejected. He returns to his home in La Mancha and passes away with dignity.

The half-masks created by David Poznanter for the actors, with the exception of Ron Campbell and John R. Lewis, give the familiar story a new twist. The masks allow the actors to assimilate themselves into the bizarre situations and be submerged.

Ron Campbell gives an outstanding performance as Don Quixote. He is simply amazing as the aged Quixano and his Don Quixote alter-ego. His limbs are seemingly made of rubber rather than flesh and blood and he moves with unbelievable dexterity, riding his horse. His beautiful voice booms across the Forest Meadows Amphitheatre. John R. Lewis beautifully underplays his performance as Sancho Panza. He gives a stunning perceptive and inane performance.

Cassidy Brown, Rick Eldridge, Lee Fitzpatrick, Monica Ho, and Jed Parsario play main roles plus other characters with boundless energy.

Lesley Schisgall Currier's direction is effortlessly paced with emphasis on the slapstick timing of the cast. Costume designer Maria Chenut has designed excellent costumes for the cast while fight director Richard Pallaziol gets good marks for the battles.

Don Quixote runs thought August 30, 2015, at Forest Meadows Amphitheatre, Dominican University of California, San Rafael. For tickets and other information, visit Coming next for the Marin Shakespeare is The Bard's Richard III opening on September 4th.

Photo: Lori A. Cheung

- Richard Connema