Man of LaMancha
The Garden Theater,Winter Garden FL
by Carl F. Gauze
Written by Dale Wasserman
Music by Mitch Leigh
Lyrics by Joe Darion
Directed by Joseph C. Walsh
Starring Miguel Salas, Annabell Mizrahi and Radamés Medina Meléndez
Even in the depths of the plague, The Winter Garden Theater stayed open. Tonight they flower with an innovative and rather minimalist production of the this Miguel Cervantes classic. Cervantes (Salas) and his traveling companion and manservant Sancho (Meléndez) are tossed in the Hoosegow for the crime of being. Their nameless guard (Janine Papin) remove prisoners one by one; the fate of these lost souls remains unknown, Cervantes looks like an Englishmen major and his only weapons are sarcasms and power of the pen. As the incarcerated wait for justice and/or death they entertain themselves with an impromptu production Cervantes manuscript. He’s an aging Spanish smallholder who fell in love with Arthurian romances, and sets out with sidekick Sancho to fight windmills and find romance, if not actual love. He succeeds and fails and while the prisoners and guards think Cervantes is nuts, he’s the only persons willing to face the bad odds, and win a battle by losing his life.
Standard stuff for romanticism, but the set is a modern holding tank of chain link and glaring LED lights. The prisoners slide smoothly into their fantasy roles, and Aldonza (Mizrahi) take the worst of it, she sleeps with anyone for money or protection, and to her it’s all the same, Cervantes’ views here a visionary but arty, and that tension drives the story. I see parallels with Godspell, the set is minimal and appears slap-dash (although totally rust free) making this is a minimalist La Mancha if ever there was one. Salas plays a ideal pacifist: he complains about injustice, but tolerates it when thrust on his own body. Meléndez remains passive, his fate is his master’s fate and he has no chance for a side deal. But as jester he must point out uncomfortable truths and in return accept uncomfortable beatings. Those men at least retain their honor, it’s poor Aldonza who has no options and to her, sex is like doing the dishes while being eaten by fire ants. This is classic show, done in a post-modern style.