A Noise Within boldly closes out it’s “Beyond Our Wildest Dreams” 25th season with a crackling reimagining of the musical “Man Of La Mancha”. Inspired by the novel “Don Quixote de La Mancha” by the keen satirist of 17th century Spanish literature, Miguel de Cervantes, the musical places us in prison with the author where he recruits his fellow prisoners to act out his novel as he awaits questioning by the Spanish Inquisition.
In director Julia Rodriguez-Elliott’s ambitious interpretation, the actors are in modern, albeit ragged, dress and the prison could be a prison holding tank anywhere in the world today. The Angela Balogh Calin costumes are minimalist, the inspired Fred Kinney set design bleak and the actors use mops, buckets and umbrellas to represent everything from swords, helmets and giant windmills. Yet through the sheer audacity of the performance we are also swept away to a 17th century landscape where a knight and his companion are fighting foes and righting wrongs on a glorious quest.
Performed without dance numbers or intermission, Rodriguez-Elliott has pared things down to the play’s essential emotional story with it’s message of hope in times of harsh reality. I was grateful for the spare yet very effective orchestra beautifully directed by Dr. Melissa Sky-Eagle.
Geoff Elliott leads his band of prisoner/actors with the passion of a true believer. As Don Quixote/Alonso Quijana he is at turns funny, charismatic and ultimately heartbreaking. His loyal sidekick, Sancho Panza, is brilliantly played by Kasey Mahaffy who instantly charms in his fantastic number “I Like Him.”
Cassandra Marie Murphy as Aldonza is everything I wanted her to be and more. Her fiery, gutsy, “Aldonza” is as chill-inducing as her reprise of “Dulcinea” is almost unbearable in it’s honesty and emotion.
One of the funniest highlights comes from the clever staging and fantastic quartet of Jeremy Rabb’s kindly Padre, Cassie Simone’s calculating Antonia, Cynthia Marty’s resourceful housekeeper and Michael Uribes’ controlling Dr. Sanson Carrasco singing “I’m Only Thinking of Him”. Gabriel Zenone is very effective and touching as the Innkeeper. There are many beautiful, poignant moments throughout the show as the hardened prisoners give themselves over to the story of this noble quest and begin to understand the power of dreaming and to find hope in their vision of how things could and should be.
“Man of La Mancha” by Dale Wasserman, music by Mitch Leigh, lyrics by Joe Darion, directed by Julia Rodriguez-Elliott runs through May 21 in repertory with King Lear & Ah Wilderness! A Noise Within, 3352 E. Foothill Blvd, Pasadena, CA 91107 www.anoisewithin.org (626) 356-3100