Prison break


You can walk into the Court Theatre production of Man of La Mancha knowing the 1966 Tony Award–winning musical inside out—able to sing along to the lyrics not only of “Impossible Dream” but also “Dulcinea,” “I’m Only Thinking of Him,” and even “Golden Helmet of Mambrino”—and still get caught up in the story.

It helps that the story is one of the best, a retelling of Miguel de Cervantes’s Don Quixote. A play within a play, the musical is also a play within a prison, as Cervantes and his manservant await their fate during the Spanish Inquisition. Both Charles Newell’s direction and Josh Culbert’s set, a multitiered affair that suggests the seven circles of hell, underscore a storyteller’s power to open an audience to new possibilities and connections.

The music remains as stirring as the message, as the three lead characters sing their hearts out in tripartite performances. Herbert Perry plays Cervantes; acting out a story to save his manuscript from being destroyed by his fellow prisoners, Cervantes assumes the role of Alonso Quijana, an idealist who would prefer to be the great knight Don Quixote. Neil Friedman waxes comic and appealing as Cervantes’s manservant, who also plays Quijana’s manservant and Quixote’s squire, Sancho Panza. As the half-mad prisoner Escalante, Hollis Resnick plays the less-than-virginal servant Aldonza, transformed by Quixote into his own fair lady, Dulcinea.

Man of La Mancha runs Wednesday to Sunday through November 6.


Photos by Michael Brosilow: Neil Friedman as Sancho, Herbert Perry as Don Quixote, and Hollis Resnik as Aldonza (top); Dulcinea and Don Quixote (bottom).

October 14, 2005