Thursday, December 14, 2017

New Rep Theatre Presents A Gritty and Glorious "Man of La Mancha" - Through December 31st


Maurice Emmanuel Parent as Cervantes/Quijana/Quixote
Ute Gfrerer as Aldonza
"Man of La Mancha"
Directed by Antonio Ocampo-Guzman
New Rep Theatre
Mosesian Center for the Arts
Through December 31st
The unifying theme for this season at New Rep Theatre is "Resilience." What could be more fitting to advance this theme than a revival of the musical tale of the beloved knight errant, Don Quixote - the "Man of La Mancha." Actually, the creators of this musical, Writer Dale Wasserman, Composer Mitch Leigh, and Lyricist Joe Darion, made it clear that there are two men of La Mancha whose stories are being told here: Don Quixote and his creator, Miguel de Cervantes.

Director Antonio Ocampo-Guzman has creatively opted to set this revival in the time of Franco's Spain. Perhaps he has chosen to depict life in a dungeon in a fascist regime to give us hope that art can help us to escape the doldrums and the mental dungeon where many of us languish as our nation tilts dangerously in the direction of neofascism. Set Designer Eric Levenson has created a gritty and impressive subterranean holding cell that gives cast members many places to hide, or to put themselves in the light, as the action of the play requires. He is wonderfully assisted in suggesting a dark and adumbrated world by the Lighting Design of Jeff Adelberg, and the Costumes by Frances Nelson McSherry. Music Direction is by David Reiffel and Movement Direction is by Judith Chaffee.

Michael Levesque as Sancho Panza
Maurice Emmanuel Parent as Cervantes/Quijana/Quixote
Ute Gfrerer as Aldonza
"Man of La Mancha"
Directed by Antonio Ocampo-Guzman
New Rep Theatre
Mosesian Center for the Arts
Through December 31st

The music that Mr. Leigh has penned is hauntingly beautiful, and several of the numbers live forever in many of our heads and hearts. In order to do justice to this score, the cast members must have strong vocal chops, and that is certainly the case for this company of actors and singers, several of whom make it clear that they have deep operatic training.
  • The triple role of Cervantes/Quijana/Quixote has been entrusted to the estimable Maurice Emmanuel Parent. The signature song that sets apart all actors who aspire to portray Don Quixote is the iconic "The Impossible Dream," and Mr. Parent acquits himself nobly in this number. But even before tackling this piece, he had me believing that he was the bewildered Alonso Quijana, deluding himself that he was a knight errant, sallying forth "to fight for the right without question or pause." It is a powerful performance that also includes a rendition of "Dulcinea" that gave me chills.
  • Equally pivotal to the success of any production of "La Mancha" is that of Aldonza/Dulcinea. Beautiful of form and of voice, Ute Gfrerer immerses herself in the role of the scullery maid. We are convinced that she is indeed this misused whore - "the most casual bride of the murdering scum of the earth." She tries to set Quixote straight as she pleads with him not to call her his lady, Dulcinea. One of the highlights of this production is her heart felt rendering of her cri de coeur, "Aldonza," and the skeptical "What Does He Want of Me?"
  • Traditionally, the role of Quixote's squire, Sancho Panza, is played by a short, squat, middle aged actor who believably sports "a belly full of stories" - and of food. (True confession: I fit the mold, having played Sancho on two occasions a number of years ago.) So, I did not know what to think when young, tall, and fit Michael Levesque blurted out "I'm Sancho"! In keeping with the scheme of the play within the play, it made perfect sense when he strapped on a false paunch and instantly became a very credible squire. In fact, his interpretation of Sancho was one of the finest I have ever seen, encompassing his acting, speaking, singing, gesticulations, and accompanying himself on ukulele. He shone in "I Like Him," and "A Little Gossip."
  • As the Governor among the prisoners and the fictional Innkeeper, Todd Yard was strong, presiding over the kangaroo court that tried Cervantes for being a bad poet. Also strong was Shonna Cirone as Maria, the Innkeeper's shrewish wife.
  • Davron S. Monroe made a menacing Dr. Carrasco, intent on curing the mad Quijana of his delusions.
  • As Quijana's niece and Carrasco's fiancee, Antonia, Ivy Ryan was strong in delivering her disingenuous plea "I'm Only Thinking of Him."
  • Joining her in this dirge was Christina English as Luisa, Quijana's housekeeper who fancies she must protect her maidenly honor against the delusions of the mad man.
  • Stefan Barner as Father Perez impressed in "To Each His Dulcinea, and the elegiac "Psalm."
  • Nile Hawver was strong as Pedro the Muleteer, and lead guitarist.
  • Paul James Lang was the Barber, as well as Captain of the Inquisition, ably handling the "Barber's Song."
  • The remaining Muleteers/Prisoners, Brandon Grimes, Ricardo D. Holguin, Christhian Mancinas-Garcia, and Nicole Vander Laan, had their moment in the spotlight in "Little Bird."
Cast
"Man of La Mancha"
Directed by Antonio Ocampo-Guzman
New Rep Theatre
Mosesian Center for the Arts
Through December 31st
Has there ever been a time in recent memory when we stood more in need of a refreshing reminder of the resilience of the human spirit? The moving story of the knight errant offers just such a drink of cool water in the desert of despair. We have many windmills still to tilt at, and even more dragons to be slain. It is not an impossible dream - or task. "Believe Sancho - believe!"

The good news is that audiences are flocking to see this gorgeous production, so tickets are scarce. Even better news is that New Rep has responded to this tsunami of interest by adding five additional performances. So, don't leave yourself tilting at windmills; throw down the gauntlet and secure your tickets now. This is a revival that is guaranteed to revive your spirits.

New Rep Website

Enjoy!

Al

Praxis Stage Prods and Provokes with Dario Fo's "Accidental Death of An Anarchist" - Through December 17th


With each production, Praxis Stage solidifies its growing reputation for presenting works that challenge and cause audiences to see things in a new light. The current production of Dario Fo's
"Accidental Death of An Anarchist" continues that stream of plays that provoke thought. Mr. Fo was an Nobel Prize winning playwright from Milan who dedicated his work to "the proletariat." In this play, he uses an event that occurred in Milan in 1969 to highlight the world view and tactics of anarchists, while pointing a spotlight on fascist police brutality. He conflates time in telling the story of a trumped up investigation of the death of an anarchist who died of defenestration from the upper stories of the security police headquarters as he was being interrogated for his role in a terrorist bombing.

Under the direction of James Peter Sotis, the cast of six energetically and capably convey the hypocrisy of the investigation that Mlan officials launched into the death of the anarchist. Using this specific incident, the playwright cleverly shows The Maniac (an excellent Alexander Castillo-Nunez) using police tactics against them to reveal the cover-up that is being attempted. The notes provided with the playbill give audience members a thumbnail summary of the Anarchist Movement.

Other members of the kinetic cast are:
  • Alexandra Smith - The Sergeant
  • Daniel Boudreau - Bertozzo
  • Danny Mourino - Pissani
  • Michael Anderson - The Chief
  • Tenneh Sillah - Feletti
Cast
"Accidental Death of An Anarchist" by Dario Fo
Praxis Stage
Directed by James Peter Sotis
First Church Boston
Through December 17th

As Fo wrote this play, he made it clear that he was leaving room for actors to improvise and to add commentary. The fourth wall is often breached as actors, especially Mr. Castillo-Nunez, interact with audience members and make comments about the play itself and about the contemporary political climate. It takes some getting used to, but in the end, it is an effective technique.

Technical Director is James St. George, Costumes by Sarah Jocelyn, Sound by Benjamin Finn.

Beginning with this evening's performance at First Church Boston - 66 Marlborough Street - this run enters its final weekend. So, make your plans now to attend by this Sunday, December 17th.