Regional Reviews: Florida - Southern
Man of La Mancha
Also see John's review of First Date
Set in the time of Spanish Inquisition in the late 1600s, Man of La Mancha tells the story of the novel "Don Quixote" as a play within a play. An actor/author turned tax collector named Miguel de Cervantes (George Dvorsky) is thrown into prison for foreclosing on a church for non-payment. As he and his manservant (Robert Anthony Jones) await sentencing, they are set upon by their fellow inmates, who seize the manuscript of Cervantes' latest work. They propose a mock trial in which Cervantes must defend himself. If he loses, he must turn over all his possessions, including the manuscript, to the other inmates. Cervantes enlists the help of all of the inmates, aided by his trunk of costumes, props, and makeup, to act out his story.
Scenic designer Meghan V. LaLonde has created an impressive set for this production. As we are in a dungeon, it is obviously not one of great beauty, but there is a grandeur to its size and levels, enhanced by the lighting by Jose Santiago. This is the first production at the Wick in which the scenic design makes use of the entire breadth of the stage, and it is a vast improvement over the designs used in the last two productions. Though tracks are used for this production rather than live musicians, the mix is well done, and using tracks does permit more use of strings than one would normally have in a smaller orchestral setting. Costuming is based a bit too heavily on shredded clothing to be genuinely creative, and the actors could also have eased up on merely covering their faces with dirt as their major make-up option. The choreographed staging of the rape sequence ("The Abduction") in the second act is superbly done. It drives home the graphic, degrading nature of the moment, achieving keen emotional impact while falling just shy of being disgusting. The fight scene that opens the second act ("The Combat") is amateurish by comparison, and looks very fake.
Some of the supporting performances are definitely worth mentioning. The voice of Michael Ursua as the Padre is the loveliest voice I have heard on that stage. One wishes he might have played the Padre's conflict a bit more clearly, but it is still a very nice performance. As Alonso's ward Antonia, Jinon Deeb has a well-trained singing voice; but she is not a strong actress, and comes off as rather green. Patrick A Wilkinson, as her fiancé Dr. Sanson Carrasco and the Duke, has a strong presence and memorable resonance to his speaking voice. Wesley Slade is entertainingly impish as the Barber. Shane Tanner as the head muleteer is altogether disturbingly menacing even with the few lines he has.
Alix Paige as Aldonza has determination and fight, and a fine singing voice. She captures the low esteem the character has for herself and most of those around her. What is missing is the character's realization that she is worth more even outside of the assertions of Don Quixote. At the end of the story we should feel her emotionally and spiritually stepping up to be the Dulcinea he has dreamed of, but she never really quite gets there. Robert Anthony Jones is endearing as Sancho. He charmingly handles the humorous nature of his character up until the song "A Little Gossip" when we can see what wonderful broad comedic skills he has. He is the perfect foil to George Dvorsky as Don Quixote.
It is no easy task for an actor to differentiate between the three roles of Cervantes, Alonso Quijana, and Don Quixote. Dvorsky's Cervantes is appropriately played as a man of opportunity down on his luck. Dvorsky's portrayal of Alonso is weaker, as he never captures the mental and physical frailty of the character separate from his imagined state of being Don Quixote. His singing voice is not always the smooth, rippling baritone one associates with this role, especially when on the iconic song "The Impossible Dream." He sings several flat notes in two of his songs in the first act, and has a vibrato that makes his beard vibrate distractingly. However, though he may not sing the role exactly as one would wish, his acting continues to grow throughout the show toward a glorious ending. It is Dvorsky's heartfelt acting commitment to his portrayal of Don Quixote that sells the show.
When Cervantes' story of Don Quixote ends, the prisoners return his manuscript, declaring him not guilty. The guards enter to take Cervantes away to be tried by the Spanish Inquisitors. As he ascends the staircase from their dungeon, the prisoners pay tribute to the noble spirit of Don Quixote and to the hopeful tale told by Cervantes in singing "The Impossible Dream". It is a richly poignant and uplifting moment with which to end this noteworthy production at the Wick.
Man of La Mancha will be appearing at the Wick Theatre through March 28, 2015. For more information you may contact them by phone at 561-955-2333 or online at www.thewick.org.
The Wick Theatre & Costume Museum is located at 7901 N. Federal Highway in Boca Raton, Florida. It houses a professional, 330-seat theatre company hiring local and non-local Equity and non-Equity actors, the Broadway Collection Costume Museum, and the Wick Tavern - open for lunch or dinner.
*Designates member of Actor's Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.