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Theater Review: A Rich And Resonant 'Man Of La Mancha' On TheatreWorks Stage

By The Newtown Bee, Elizabeth Young


NEW MILFORD — Theatreworks New Milford's production of the rich and resonant Man of La Mancha is on display for their December offering. The long road taken by director Francis A. Daley and musical director Morgan Kelsey to mount this play has proven to be worth the wait. Their intensive attention to detail and vision result in a moving and captivating theatrical experience.

In late 16th Century Spain, Cervantes, a poet, actor, and man of illusion played by Fred Rueck, has been incarcerated on an ambiguous charge. His loyal attendant, Sancho (John Lino Ponzini), is thrown into prison along with Cervantes. The inmates already housed in the prison cellar, which can only be accessed by the excruciating descent of stairs that retract, leaving them stranded, gather to conduct an inquisition of their own.

Cervantes alights upon the tales of Don Quixote as he dons the armor and sword of his alter ego. His costume trunk is a trove of garb for the characters who play supporting roles in this fable.

Cervantes doles out costumes to fellow prisoners participating in his fantasy. The Innkeeper is played by Viv Berger, his tyrant of a wife is portrayed by Morgana Kate Watson, the Padre is Rob Pawlikowski, and the Duke is Roger Grace.

Supporting characters are played by Maya Jennings Daley, Richard Chad Frey, Chris Marker, Lindsay Partelow, Peter Philip, Marsha Prophet, Nick Raines, Alexis Vournazos, and Erin Walsh.

Optimism, goodness, and honor lie at the heart of Don Quixote. He chances upon Aldonza and is instantly smitten. His hero is completely taken by the defiant Aldonza (Elizeth Brito), whom he calls Dulcinea.

Nothing in her experience has prepared Aldonza to be an object of adoration. Her essence, however, seeks devotion. She ultimately falls for the Man of La Mancha when her own existence becomes too much to bear.

Hardship and brutality abound, and yet all are captivated by the fantastic tale of Don Quixote and his jousting at windmills.

As the iconic, eponymous character, Fred Rueck is soulful. His anguish is as apparent as his innocence. His conveyance of a childlike quality in this character is powerful given his stature on stage and the gravity of the situation. Mr Rueck's rendition of the well-known and -loved "The Impossible Dream" is stirring.

As Adonza, Ms Brito cracks the tough shell of her character and deftly reveals her vulnerability. Her rendition of "What Does He Want From Me" is beautiful and sensitive.

Fidgeting and cavorting, Mr Ponzino is simply superb as Sancho. While concerned and frightened, when he explains in song that he remains loyal because he loves Cervantes, he is entirely convincing. His every wry expression was humorous, yet tragic. He is an excellent performer.

The entire cast skillfully renders their characters as authentic to their circumstances. When Ms Daley's character is hauled up the foreboding stairs, she is as terrified as terrifying.

Designed by Leif Smith, the set is magnificent. The cavernous nature of the holding is excellently depicted and enhanced by the slow, grinding descent of the stairs, affecting a powerful pause as the inhabitants wait in silence to see who will be called.

Mr Daley is to be commended for his directorial choices and vision. His use of the players as stage hands, who upon completion of their task, gently move into place, is a very effective blending of the scene changes into the fabric of the play. The characters had no help, and this choice fortified that condition.

Moving the musicians on and off stage promotes a sense of fluidity from dialogue to dance and song, creating an overall aura of continuum and building of intensity.

A gorgeous production of a stunning musical by a cast in the hands of a thoughtful director is not to be missed. Take advantage of this wonderful opportunity.

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