by PFTC writer and Ya-Ty Magazine editor Seneca Garrison
Who doesn’t love playing into delusions here and there? Prague Shakespeare Company’s staging of ‘The Man of La Mancha’ is a balance of charm and fun with story and conviction. Lane Davies’ performance as Cervantes/Quixote emerged as such an amiable, enigmatic character that the audience couldn’t help but trust as he lead us through the play.
The plot follows a man of many talents, Cervantes, and his Squire, Sancho played by Jerry Winsett. We open the story as the two are thrown into prison during the Spanish Inquisition. Their fellow prisoners descend onto Cervantes trunk of possessions and threaten the rip apart a prized manuscript if Cervantes can’t prove its worth in an impromptu prison court. Cervantes incorporates his fellow inmates in an epic tale of dreams and harsh reality to plead the case of saving his writing while awaiting the impending inquisitors. The story he pleads is about a delusional knight named Don Quixote and his dreams of adventure in the midst of the real world.
They also sing! So I made a list of characters in my notes to check off who can belt it out and who can’t as the songs began to roll in. After checking off the first 5 performers, I stopped counting. The singing was great. Of course, some voices were stronger than others. From the opening number, performed by Davies and Winsett, I wanted that strong punch of ‘THIS IS A MUSICAL’ with projection and grandeur…but I didn’t find it.
The song was on key, but it wasn’t easy to hear the words of the two singers and it was even harder when their voices layered on top of each other.
There were a few problems with projection throughout the night. Could it have been the performance space? Yes. Definitely. The layout of the theatre wasn’t optimal for the stage direction of the play at times. For example, when Quixote is battling his infamous windmill giant, the windmill was placed in a corner of the stage that about 15% of the audience couldn’t see. It didn’t ruin the play by any means, but leaning over the people next to me to see what Davies was battling and leaning forward to try and catch more lyrics took me out of the play as obligatory leaning tends to do.
Back to the singing that 100% of the audience did get to enjoy. When Michael Garamoni as the Priest, Anna Fialová as the Antonia the Niece, and Elizabeth Wunderlich as the Maid began their harmonious ‘I’m Only Thinking of Him’ number, I knew it was going to be a great show. The three were definite standouts with their strong singing voices. Garamoni, in particular, was a joy to watch and listen to, with spot on animation in his voice and face.
Overall, the acting was consistently well done throughout. Davies lead those around him with a humble grace that makes your root for poor, irrational Don Quixote. His even, confident portrayal allowed the other characters to bounce off him and make a cohesive world for the audience to enjoy.
Nicole J. Adelman’s Aldonza/Dolcinea had great comedic timing as well as powerful anger and pain that brought a level of severity to the otherwise light-hearted musical. Winsett’s Sancho the Squire never lost his loveable momentum and Jared Doreck’s Dr. Sanson Carrasco was effective in being the voice of reason with his precise, terse diction. Bob Boudreaux and his cast of rowdy tavern boys and girls set the scenes with humor and depravity equally well.
The biggest scene stealer of the night was definitely Jay DeYonker with his small part of the Barber. His single song and dance number as a travelling barber forced to give up his shaving pale to the imagination of Quixote was so charming that I kept hoping his character would reappear later in the show, even though I’ve seen this play before and I know the Barber is a one song gig.
When performances are competing to go from ‘great’ to ‘scene stealers’, you know it’s a pretty good production. Even though, according to Quixote, ‘Facts are the enemy of truth,’ those are the facts! The Man of La Mancha is another Prague Shakespeare Show for the books.
Photo by: Stanislav Callas