Friday, May 16, 2008

‘La Mancha’ ensemble among best in local theater

Published: in The News Tribune, May 16, 2008
Pictured: Aldonza
(Deanna Barrett), Don Quixote (Jeff Kingsbury) and Sancho Panza (Jerod Nace) Sancho Panza and Don Quixote with horse. Photos courtesy Capital Playhouse

Man of La Mancha” at Olympia’s Capital Playhouse is a big musical in every way – big sets and costumes, broad and boisterous singing and acting, dark makeup (including Don Quixote’s overdone theatrical makeup that is, purposefully, badly applied on stage), and larger-than-life passions.

It’s a play that can seem a little outdated and silly, but for audience members who allow themselves to suspend their cynicism and go along with the pretensions, it can be among the most heart-rending and inspirational theater experiences imaginable.

And Capital Playhouse does it up right, thanks to the combined efforts of director and musical director Troy Arnold Fisher, set designer Bruce Haasl (also in the cast as Anselmo), costume designer Tom C. Hudson, and one of the best ensemble casts ever brought together on a South Sound stage.

There were a few minor hitches opening night, including a moment during “The Impossible Dream” when Quixote’s voice sounded strained, but overall the acting and singing was flawless.

Jeff Kingsbury is outstanding as Cervantes/Don Quixote. Tall and handsome with a wonderful white wig and beard, he looks the part of the proud old man. Quixote is a complex character, an idealist and a madman who, from moment to moment, is ludicrous, dignified, frail and shaky, who seethes with anger and melts with compassion. Kingsbury portrays all of this with mad-eyed looks, a regal toss of his head and theatrical gestures with long tapered fingers. He is equally believable as an insane man fighting imaginary foes and as a weak old man who can barely stand upright. (Interestingly, Quixote is not even 50 years old, but in the 16th century that was ancient, especially for a fighting knight.) Kingsbury’s singing is full-throated and mellow, best on the more tender songs.

Jerod Nace plays Quixote’s sidekick, Sancho Panza, as a sweet and loving character, not so comical as he is often portrayed, but simply playing him as a servant who loves his master and will do anything for him. Area theatergoers might recall that Nace played the priest in Lakewood Playhouse’s performance of “La Mancha” in 2005. At that time I praised his singing, saying his voice “rings out like the mellow notes of a flute carried on night fog.” As Sancho Panza, his voice is a little less mellow but equally effective.

Deanna Barrett brings to the stage the down-and-dirty scrappiness of a street fighter with underlying tenderness as the much-abused prostitute/scullery maid Aldonza. Her voice is haunting, especially on the tender ballad “What Does He Want of Me?”

The most outstanding job of acting in a supporting role comes from Chris Serface as the priest. Like most of the actors in this play-within-a-play, Serface plays two roles, that of an insane prisoner with a frightening cackle and the mild and loving priest. His sudden change from one character to another is astounding, and he displays the full range of voices theater lovers in Tacoma and Olympia have come to know through his many performances at Tacoma Musical Playhouse and Capital Playhouse.

Also outstanding in supporting roles are Adam Rudolph as the barber, Bruce Haasl as Anselmo, Heather Christopher as the innkeeper’s wife, Erica Penn as Antonia and Matt Posner as Dr. Carrasco and the Knight of Mirrors.

Christopher and Haasl are particularly powerful with their screeching voices at the end of the abduction scene – a rape scene that is highly stylized and choreographed but upsetting nevertheless. I would not advise letting young children see this.

It is an enjoyable show that will take your breath away in spots, but playing it with no intermission makes it a little hard to sit through. By the end, my old bones felt as frail as Don Quixote’s.

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays through May 31
WHERE: Capital Playhouse, 612 Fourth Ave. E., Olympia
TICKETS: $27-$33 general, $21-$27 seniors and ages 16 and younger
INFORMATION: 360-943-2744,

1 comment:

Bev Sykes said...

I reviewed a production of Man of La Mancha which took an unusual form: