Man of la Mancha, Sept 5th, ’14

 

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Tom Rooney made me cry. His Cervantes/Don Quixana/Quixote managed to convey everything from sexy to frightened, from gloriously unaware to raving mad, from despondent to elated. It was a joy to watch. 

This is a play within a play within a play, so pay attention, unsuspecting first viewer. Lol Miguel de Cervantes is being imprisoned by the Spanish inquisition – as a tax collector he had foreclosed a church because the priests weren’t willing to pay their taxes. He’s in prison, surrounded by murderers and thieves, who want to hold trial over him. So to explain himself – to stay alive a little longer – he tells the story of Alonzo Quijana, a hidalgo from Mancha, who in his late days gets a bit mad and follows his allusions and dreams. But is that really so mad? Together with his servant Sancho Panza Quijana takes on his new life, his last dream, to be a knight, to become a hero, to live as Don’t Quixote de la Mancha, in search of honour, and the love of his life, Dulcinea.

To stage that, Cervantes uses the prisoners who are willing participants. All but Aldonza, who survives in this prison by selling her body. Cervantes sees that there is more to her and forces her into the play, where Quixote enters the castle (an old inn) to finally get dubbed as a knight.

Meanwhile at Quijana’s home his niece and his housekeeper are mortified that there uncle/employer is fighting windmills. They try to have him committed with the help of a priest and the niece’s fiancé, a doctor. 

Quixote, though frail with age, however manages to fight off the donkey herders from his lady Dulcinea, who keeps his letter even though she can’t read it. Slowly the woman starts to see what this mad old man sees in her and she starts to believe and hope for the first time in years. Unfortunately, as soon as Quixote is gone to fast before his knighthood, the donkey herders come back and rape her.

The next day unsuspecting Quixote is dubbed a knight, but the Doctor is near and forces him to look into mirrors to see reality. Quijana collapses and is brought back home to dwie.

The priests of the inquisition come to tell Cervantes that he’s next. (Because this is about Cervantes!! Pay attention!!)

On his deathbed Quijana’s mind is woefully clear. Clear that is, until Sancho and Aldonza come to visit. Together they recreate once again the heroic knight of the woeful countenance, Don Quixote de la Mancha, who follows his dream, no matter how hard, with his faithful squire and his adored lady by his side. He dies trying – but isn’t that better than not trying at all? 

When the dark priests of the inquisition come to fetch Cervantes, all the murderers, thieves and prostitutes sing for him – to dream the impossible dream…

 

And yes I was crying. There wasn’t a dry eye in the audience. Even Aldonza cried. We are all wimps. 

The stage design was magnificent. The stage itself is the oldest one where you have not much room for stage magic, so they had a hugely detailed set invented, with several floors, a drawbridge, and the rotating wings of a windmill seen through the glassless windows. It was truly impressive.

Now the cast. I already said how impressed I was by Tom Rooney. Even though his voice is not huge, it’s smooth and expressive. That he and Aldonza – Robin Hutton – were sometimes drowned out by the orchestra might have been because I was within in row AA right behind the conductor. LOLOL but they and Steve Ross as Sancho and Shawn Weight as the Doctor were truly inspired in their performance and deserved their standing ovation. 

Unfortunately it rained cats and dogs, so no stage door. I’ll have to wait for a bit till I’ll be able to drool over tom Rooney 😉

 

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