I AM I, DON QUIXOTE

When I was fourteen years old, I saw a show that changed my life. It was called Man of La Mancha, and it was magic and tragic and transporting. I am not sure exactly what all the factors were that made me decide to pursue a career in theatre, but that production was a huge part of that decision. So it was with great excitement and anticipation that I headed to Colorado Springs to see the Fine Arts Center's current production. I demand perfection when it comes to Man of La Mancha, and have come to expect perfection when going to the FAC. I am happy to report, I got what I wanted.

This show is a treat, from start to finish, at once hard-hitting in its portrayal of a prison during the Spanish Inquisition while at the same time whimsical and charming in the telling of Don Quixote. This is a play about hope in the face of absolute despair, of finding the courage to be true to your ideals, regardless of your situation- a fitting theme for the world we find ourselves in of late. I don't want to bother you with going over the plot. Suffice to say, it is a play-within-a-play where Cervantes finds himself thrown into jail during the Inquisition and while awaiting judgement, is given a kangaroo court trial by his fellow inmates. For his defense, Cervantes offers up his great tale of Don Quixote, famed dreamer and tilter of windmills. As the story unfolds, the inmates get swept up into the tale, taking on various roles as needed. If you want the basic plot of the show, go HERE.

The direction by Scott RC Levy, is tight, imaginative, and muscular. Levy keeps the show, which has no intermission, moving at a break-neck pace which serves the story well. He also elicits from his cast consistently strong performances, full of passion, comedy, and sorrow. I suppose it is possible for Levy to do a bad job- but I've yet to see that happen. The set, by Christopher L. Sheley, is gorgeous, as are the costumes by Sydney Gallas and lights by Holly Anne Rawls. The choreography by Mary Ripper Baker is subtle, evocative, and exciting. And the band, under the musical direction of Sharon Skidgel, is superb.

The cast is amazing. as Cervantes/Don Quixote, Stephen Day is the perfect blend of sublime hope, delusion, and daring. He made me laugh and cry in equal measure. As Sancho, Quixote's trusted sidekick, Sammie Joe Kinnett is hilarious, but never over the top- keeping the character grounded and believable and a joy to behold. And Aldonza/Dulcinea, Gina Naomi Baez is fanatastic-  she makes the character sexy, dangerous, and vulnerable as we watch her journey from hardened bar wench to dignified woman. There is not a weak link in this cast.

Man of La Mancha plays Thursdays thru Sundays until June 18. I strongly urge you to go. And, when you do, look around in the audience after the show.  I am sure that there will be more than one young person in the audience who's life will be changed for the better- look for them, look for the way a piece of theatre can inspire them.

For more info on the show, and how to get tickets, click HERE.

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