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Thursday, February 2, 2012

'Man of La Mancha' is a hit in McLean


"Don Quixote" (Mike Baker, Jr.) and "Aldonza/Dulcinea" (Janice Rivera)/Traci J. Brooks Photography




You don't have to be a resident of McLean to enjoy a decades-old favorite, Man of La Mancha, staged by the McLean Community Players at McLean's Alden Theatre now through February 11.
It's about the cheapest theatre ticket in the region, and it is a treat.
A sold-out audience loved the show on Saturday night, and the music and orchestra made us all dreamers of the impossible.
 The stars, "Cervantes/Don Quixote" (Mike Baker, Jr.), "Aldonza/Dulcinea" (Janice Rivera), "Sanchez" (Nathan Tatro), the Duke/Doctor/Knight (Lance Adell), and the Governor/Innkeeper/Moor (Jay Tilley) are some of several who lead the way and sing admirably to delight the crowd.
The best melodies are the duets and quartets ("The Impossible Dream," "Golden Helmet of Mambrino," "I'm Only Thinking of Him") sung by the cast, the prisoners in a dungeon of 17th century Spain during the Inquisition. (A contemporary setting could work just as easily.)

Part of the cast from Man of La Mancha/Traci J. Brooks Photography

Don Quixote is a new resident of the prison where men and women stay for a day or a lifetime. The other prisoners immediately attack him, put him on trial and demand all his possessions if he is found guilty. Quixote asks that he be allowed to defend himself with his play within a play, his book he has with him, authored by Miguel de Cervantes who is also Don Quixote. The play/play takes the group on Quixote's make-believe journey with his faithful sidekick, Sancho (who "really likes him").
Nowhere are there "horses" (Chris Gallegos and Celina Gomez) who can act, show emotion, and prance as well as these "ridden" by Quixote and Sancho.  Their costumes (Kathy Dunlap) match their performances.
From left, Sancho's horse (Celina Gomez), "Don Quixote" (Mike Baker, Jr.), Quixote's horse (Chris Gallegos) and "Sancho Panza" (Nathan Tatro)/Traci J. Brooks Photography

While the revolutionary, the "knight-errant," travels the countryside with Sancho, those he meets along the way in his dream world call him loco. (Are all dreamers crazy? Anything out of the ordinary is suspect.) At last, he meets his "sweet lady," "Aldonza" whom he calls "Dulcinea," a prostitute who rejects the world and those around her. Quixote tries to convince her that all is not lost. Does he succeed?
Exquisite lighting (Ken and Patti Crowley, Richard Hildebrand), constant action, drama, and song are more than sufficient to keep things moving quickly, and so many people fill the stage that lack of a set change is hardly noticeable. Props are used judiciously: rectangular boards become a table becomes a church pew or confessional becomes a bed.
Don Petersen directs, and Cathy and George Farnsworth produce, assisted by Linda Stone. The 14-piece orchestra led by Walter McCoy adds immensely to the evening's entertainment.
Program notes say the play is suitable for ages 16 and up.

What: Man of La Mancha
When: Friday and Saturday nights at 8 p.m. through February 11, 2012 with a Sunday performance at 2 p.m., February 5, 2012
Where: Alden Theatre, McLean Community Center, 1234 Ingleside Avenue, McLean, VA 22101
Parking: Plentiful, free, and on-site
How much: $20 ($18 for seniors, students, and McLean "tax district residents")
For more information: 703-790-9223

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