‘Man of La Mancha’ reaches the unreachable
I attended the opening night of Triad Stage’s production of Dale Wasserman’s “Man of La Mancha,” and just as the play’s fearless “knight” Don Quixote encourages the audience to “dream the impossible dream,” Triad Stage’s production went above and beyond my expectations.
Set in a prison “now and in the past,” a poet and his partner await Inquisition. While there, other detainees taunt the new arrivals and set up their own trial to determine if the poet and his partner are worthy enough to keep their possessions.
The poet, doing what he does best, weaves a story from his imagination, which allures the other inmates and helps them escape the reality of their seemingly unjust imprisonment. The poet, Cervantes (Graham Stevens), and his partner (DeMone) tell the story of an aging madman who thinks he is a knight by the name of Don Quixote, and of the quest to “dream the impossible dream” and validate his knighthood. Don Quixote and his trusty Sancho (DeMone) travel far and wide to fight a giant (which is actually a windmill) and save a damsel in distress (which is actually a sex worker who makes it very clear she doesn’t need saving).
They stop at a luxurious castle (which is not really luxurious and not really a castle, but just an inn) and that is where Don Quixote falls for Aldonza (Sherz Aletaha) the inn’s resident sex worker, who he insists on calling Dulcinea. Quixote’s chivalrous deeds lead him to be “officially knighted” by the innkeeper/governor (Michael Tourek), while reality slowly catches up with him. Having never seen this play, or really knowing anything about Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote, I was glued to the action and plot the whole time, to the point I didn’t notice that there was no intermission. With humor akin to Monty Python and the Holy Grail, “Man of La Mancha” is a clever and timeless look at the perceptions of reality and the art of escapism.
Graham Stevens’ Don Quixote/Cervantes and DeMone’s Sancho were both perfect for their roles; each of their actions and intentions felt genuine and sincere. Sherz Aletaha’s Aldonza/Dulcinea and Michael Tourek’s governor/innkeeper were phenomenal as well. These four actors stole the show but did not distract the audience from the rest of the incredibly talented ensemble.
I think my favorite part of this entire performance was its underlying message: even though the world might seem catastrophically insane, it is imperative to keep dreaming, keep reaching, keep believing, and keep existing. As director Preston Lane brilliantly states in the “Director’s Letter” section of the Playbill, “And yet, even in this darkest postmodern prison, we yearn to hear the call for something other, something true–reminding us all to strive with our last ounce of courage and reach the unreachable star.” Now, and eerily more than ever, “Man of La Mancha” is relevant and must be seen to be believed.
“Man of La Mancha” runs until May 26 at the Pyrle Theatre in Greensboro. For more information, visit the website.
Katie Murawski is the editor of YES! Weekly. She is from Mooresville, North Carolina and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in journalism with a minor in film studies from Appalachian State University in 2017.