Imagine a tale of monsters and dragons, gypsies and thieves and an honorable knight on a dangerous quest to save his true love. Now add a crazy old man and a mandolin and you have “Man of La Mancha.”
Based on the novel, “Don Quixote,” “Man of La Mancha” combines the fantasy of a legendary character and the reality of a struggling poet during one of the darkest periods in Spanish history.
The play opens in a Spanish prison where a collection of thieves and murderers await their punishment. Enter Miguel de Cervantes and his servant, Sancho. Their presence raises some questions among the prisoners, which leads to a mock trial where Cervantes has to defend himself. It is through his defense that the prisoners and the audience become acquainted with the story of Don Quixote.
The scenes of Don Quixote’s quest provide the comic relief for a play that is set in a time where the Holy Office, whose primary concern was to win Catholic converts frowned upon comedy. When Cervantes mentions his book, he says, “I would have made the book more amusing, had it not been for the Holy Office.”
Though the plot of “Man of La Mancha” may progress slowly during some scenes, the highly talented actors make up for any shortcomings. Robert Grossman (Cervantes) plays his role with style and grace. His talents, both as musician and actor, make this an exceptional performance. The collection of supporting actors also serves to strengthen the presentation of this play.
The director, Malcolm Tulip, has carefully selected a wonderful group of actors to present this timely story of a quest for happiness even when life can be disappointing. According to Tulip, “This is an apt time for a story of a crazy man whose madness lies in seeing good, beauty and hope where other initially do not.” This play will remind theatergoers to enjoy the beauty in life and to take time to “dream the impossible dream.”