Last night I attended what I thought to be the press opening of Theo Ubique’s Man of La Mancha.
[Minirant: This is the third show I’ve reviewed recently were the press people have either 1) not had a ticket for me after sending a confirmation email that there would be one; or 2) messed up on the curtain time of the show. I guess now I will double-check everything — especially since I left work early, taking PTO to race to Rogers Park for what I was told was a 7pm curtain (actually, there’s no curtain or proscenium at Theo’s venue/cafe) when the show actually began at 8pm.]
A review for EDGE is forthcoming, but I still wanted to share my thoughts:
This ain’t your grandmother’s La Mancha. For starters, as I noted here earlier, Cervantes/Quixote is played by a woman — the hypertalented Danielle Brothers. Can she sing the score? Oh, does she. I think even in the same keys as Richard Kiley — or maybe even lower. She’s fantastic. The entire cast is great. As is the
three four-person band.
It’s the concept that didn’t entirely work for me. Director David Heimann has set the play in the wing of a modern day psycho ward, complete with straight jackets, dirty children’s toys, manic pacing by the cast at intermission, and doctors in scrubs. The show becomes more about the edgy concept than it does about “finding your own Dulcinea,” if you know what I mean. And poor Gator, who’s never seen a production of La Mancha before, was confused as to what the show was even about. A bunch of crazies in jail?
That said: I appreciate it when a show takes a risk, and this production does. In spades. Oh, it’s not a disaster by any means — in same cases, in fact, it’s quite brilliant — but I prefer my traditional La Mancha. Call me old fashioned, but this is a show that demands simplicity in its storytelling to really resonate. Here, I felt things were a little…manic.
Still — it’s an arresting night of theatre, and I’d much rather be shocked, confused and challenged than bored. I’d gladly recommend this production to those who want to see creativity in action with a cast that attacks the material with gusto.