Step into the theatre, step into the story, step into the tale and listen to the words and wisdom of the story teller. That is the atmosphere that Taproot creates with this production of The Man of La Mancha, a classic tale of honor, chivalry and passion. The characters on stage may be the active players in the story being told by Cervantes (Jeff Berryman) but the audience becomes part of the story circle in the way they are positioned around the stage, in the small intimate space they are seated in, and in the artful direction (Scott Nolte) that includes them in the story. Ultimately, that is one of theatre art’s main missions, to have effect on the viewer, to illusion the dreamer, and to create a world in search of meaning, and Taproo
t does a great job of envisioning this mission, which is also written into their mission as a company.
This musical takes the audience to a prison in late 16th century Spain during the Spanish Inquisition and follows the defense of Miguel de Cervantes as he proves to his fellow prisoners the strength of hope, vision and value on life. He does this through a play enacted in the prison cell with the help of the prison mates. His method is song, and his leading character is Don Quixote de La Mancha, an individual whose technically medical insanity teaches those around him the lessons mentioned above, and the power of following one’s most passionate dreams.
Left to right: Faith Russell, Don Darryl Rivera, Mike Oliver, Jeff Berryman.
Photo by Erik Stuhaug.
The tale is told with acute skill in this production, with the story telling motif translating into the use of common props in the prison cell, and versatile costumes (Sarah Burch Gordon) that transition effortlessly from the clothes of prisoners in the cell to the outfits of priests, peasants and soldiers in Cervantes’ play. This coupled with effective light changes (Andrew Duff) on a simplistic, yet realistic, stone prison set (Mark Lund), increases the ability of the audience to dive into the multiple stories being presented on one set. Throw in a dash of humor, especially portrayed through Sancho Panza (Don Darryl Rivera), and you have an entrancing tale.
Besides some timing problems during fight sequences, the ensemble work of the production was dynamic, well rehearsed and well executed. The precision with which the team worked together really allows the audience permission to get lost in the action, and make their own place in the story. Each number had a very strong blocking sequence and artfully executed each line.
I would like to present this opportunity to you as a reader; come see this show, get lost in the tale as I did. It is a beautiful work that has been executed with such strong vision and understanding of the musical’s mission. Catch The Man of La Mancha running through August 7th at Taproot Theatre in Greenwood.
Reviewed by: Andy Swanson