Humans of La Mancha: Theater Latté Da Brings Diversity, Humanity, and Modernity to an Old Favorite

By Andy Browers, Author, Bookriot.com

Man of La Mancha is one of the most reliable workhorses of the stage. Massive touring productions, dinner theaters, high schools, colleges, church basement drama clubs—you name it, they have done it, and people came and probably adored it. It’s one of those shows capable of doing much of its own heavy lifting, and if you get the lines right and assert some degree of mastery over its galloping music, the thing is going to be a success.

It is also a show set in a particular intersection of time, space, and cruelty called the Spanish Inquisition. So build that dungeon, dress that ensemble in rags, and transport us back to 17th century Espana. Right?

Not always. Director Peter Rothstein has expertly lifted the theatrical nesting doll of plays within plays from one period of barbaric inhumanity and inserted it right into another—the present day. It shouldn’t work. There should be no parallels between our points in history. We should have left the incarceration, intimidation, and grievous mistreatment of neighbors who make us uncomfortable in the 17th century. But we didn’t.

So swap that dusty old dungeon for a stark, cold, concrete holding cell filled for the most part with ethnic minorities. Let us watch, from the moment the house is open, as more are brought in until, at last, we see the small-statured intellectual and his friend shown into the room and we know it’s time to hitch up the old workhorse and get to it.

And let me just say: it works.

Let me also say that I am a sentimental fool with an unkickable idealism habit and a bottomless appetite for metaphor, so this show kind of speaks of my Quixotic language. Like  the Lord of La Mancha himself, I saw many castles in Theater Latté Da’s masterful production looming behind the veneer of reality—subtext coaxed out by a fresh setting.

I thought about prisons. Yes, the preshow included a literal cell becoming occupied. But perhaps as equally frightening and cold was the psychological prison they began to occupy. Did they talk to each other? No. In fact, one character moved away when another took the seat immediately next to hers. These people are scared and they are isolated, insular, incarcerated within themselves. Welcome to 2017.

Everything changes when Miguel de Cervantes presents his theatrical defense before the Governor and company. A shared purpose and unified effort to bring Cervantes’ dream to life also brings each detainee to life, and if that ain’t a metaphor for the beauty of community, cooperation, teamwork and/or art and its ability to free us from the imagined cells dividing us, then I don’t know what is.

The play within the play became a stripped down, streamlined production with found objects providing sound effects and characters suggested artfully by partial masks and selective costume pieces, akin to the productions another Twin Cities company frequently delivers to prisons, shelters, and other lonely, hopeless people. The diverse cast of fifteen did the work of double or triple that number, led by the charismatic and buoyant performance of Martin Sola. The emotional and violent peaks and valleys of Meghan Kreidler’s Aldonza reached aching highs and lows, and I have never felt a crowd share in the triumph of the rumble against the muleteers more viscerally than I did on Friday night. The trio set in the Padre’s (Jon-Michael Reese) confessional was fresh and hilarious. Andre Shoals’ warmhearted fussbudget Innkeeper also deserves mention. Really, the ensemble worked as an excellent, cohesive and inventive whole. 

The button of the show is a reprise of its greatest hit, and to quote the Padre, “I feel with pain that once again we now will hear an often heard refrain.” Only there was no pain. Zero pain. The song became something new; as the cast broke into “The Impossible Dream” , they broke it like a prism as it split into a handful of different languages into a musical theatre melting pot reflecting the American experience, the La Mancha experience, and the human experience all at once. Is it any wonder why people shot out of their seats to applaud the very second the cast stopped singing?

No way. Man of La Mancha lives, and it is not to be missed.

Andy Browers is a writer, actor, and director from Cloquet, MN. He contributes regularly to bookriot.com, and is currently working on a collection of essays related to pop culture. Andy will direct The Great Gatsby at Lakeshore Players in White Bear Lake, opening Dec. 2017. 

Theater Latte Da turns staple 'Man of La Mancha' into a protest piece

Wednesday, September 20, 2017 by Jay Gabler, City Pages

After the curtain call at Sunday’s matinee performance of Man of La Mancha, director Peter Rothstein stepped onstage to salute an early mentor, in attendance, who helped inspire his lifelong love of theater. She must have been gratified to see how her former student is multiplying her gift, creating productions that remind audiences why art matters.

In this particular instance, Rothstein has revitalized a musical that’s been consigned to musty dinner theaters. Man of La Mancha is far from the most obvious show to prove demonstrably relevant in 2017, but Rothstein homes in on one of the musical’s key lines: “When life itself seems lunatic, who knows where madness lies?”

Rothstein sets Theater Latté Da’s new production in an immigration detention center: a brutal chamber with concrete walls and stained floors, a grating buzzer sounding whenever the security door is opened. By removing the play-within-a-play’s setting from the Spanish Inquisition to the present day, Rothstein brings the themes of human dignity and desperate imagination into sharp relief.

Once the story is underway, though, the production luxuriates in the brilliant music and witty script that have kept playwright Dale Wasserman’s adaptation of Don Quixote in regular rotation for half a century. As author Miguel de Cervantes, Martín Solá sublimely embodies the noble mien that makes the ostensibly disordered Spaniard a magnetic figure. He’s accompanied by Sancho (Zach Garcia), his right-hand man.

One of Rothstein’s many excellent choices here was to cast the fierce Meghan Kreidler as Aldonza. Far from the blowsy wench her clients perceive, Kreidler makes Aldonza a formidable personality who’s devastating in her disappointment when her Don proves unable to defend her. Her eponymous testimonial song is at the dark heart of this moving production.

It’s not all gloom in La Mancha, though, thanks to on-point character acting by the entire ensemble—notably Andre Shoals as the Innkeeper and Jon-Michael Reese as an amusingly reluctant Padre. With Reese flanked by McKinnley Aitchison’s Antonia and Sara Ochs’ Housekeeper, “I’m Only Thinking of Him” is so entertaining that you can almost miss the pristine quality of the trio’s singing.

A four-member band is hidden from view, but their presence is strongly felt as music director Denise Prosek captures the warmth of composer Mitch Leigh’s Spanish-flavored music.

The production ends with a gut punch, as we return to the detention center and the diverse characters step forward to sing a reprise chorus of “The Impossible Dream.” After last fall’s election, theater artists across the country promised to respond swiftly. Who could have guessed that a 1964 musical would constitute one of this season’s most powerful rebukes?

Man of La Mancha
Ritz Theater
345 13th Ave. NE, Minneapolis
612-339-3003; through October 22

 

Theater Latté Da opens 2017-18 season with nicely realized 'Man of La Mancha'

GRAYDON ROYCE, Special to the Star Tribune

Martín Solá and Meghan Kreidler star in “Man of La Mancha” at Theater Latté Da. Below, Kreidler portrays Aldonza, who blossoms under Don Quixote’s influence. PHOTO BY ALLEN WEEKS

Martín Solá and Meghan Kreidler star in “Man of La Mancha” at Theater Latté Da. Below, Kreidler portrays Aldonza, who blossoms under Don Quixote’s influence.
PHOTO BY ALLEN WEEKS

In a crazy world, who is the sane human? Is he the one who tilts at windmills, creates his own heroes and dreams of impossibilities because only in fantasy is there the hope of a different world?

This was the philosophy behind “Man of La Mancha,” which might today be nothing more than a dusty old musical if not for the elusive nature of its truth and purpose.

Theater Latté Da has opened its 20th season with a nicely realized staging of “La Mancha,” a work drawing inspiration from writer Miguel de Cervantes and his dazzling protagonist, Don Quixote.

Director Peter Rothstein places the work in the cinder-block holding area of a modern detention center (set by Michael Hoover). It’s a well-intentioned stab at relevancy that makes its case convincingly up to the point where the dialogue references the historic Spanish Inquisition.

We get the point. Resisting absurdity in a world of claustrophobic ideology is timeless.

Cervantes (Martín Solá) puts on a play within a play, telling the story of Don Quixote in hopes that the prisoners will find him innocent in their kangaroo court.

Kreidler portrays Aldonza, who blossoms under Don Quixote’s influence. Photo By Allen weeks.

Kreidler portrays Aldonza, who blossoms under Don Quixote’s influence. Photo By Allen weeks.

It is a stunning moment when that drama begins in Rothstein’s production. Designer Marcus Dilliard’s lights shift from cold klieg to dramatic red. Handmade props (Abbee Warmboe) and masks (Abbey Syme) are distributed to the prisoners, who become actors in telling the story of the “knight errant.”

Solá has the requisite charisma, voice and stamina to make Cervantes/Quixote a man who convinces his fellow prisoners that he deserves better than his fate. He might not be the craziest or most mesmerizing Quixote I’ve seen. He is flush with nobility and honor, though.

Meghan Kreidler portrays the sullen Aldonza, who slowly blossoms under the influence of Cervantes/Quixote and becomes devoted to him. One almost feels a breeze every time Kreidler crosses the stage, as she is so physically dominant and spiritually tough. Her voice, loud and brash, softens remarkably in “What Does He Want of Me?”

Zachary Garcia is just a bit off as the bumbling Sancho — more cute than amusing. Andre Shoals is excellent as the Governor, a sympathetic prisoner who has agreed to give Cervantes a fair hearing in the prisoners’ kangaroo court. Rodolfo Nieto, Sara Ochs and McKinnley Aitchison stand out in the ensemble.

Everyone on stage, under Denise Prosek’s musical direction, sings well and fight choreographer Annie Enneking gets to show off her chops with a lot of bodies heaving themselves around the stage.

“La Mancha” did not send me away with the thrill of “Sweeney Todd” or “Ragtime” in recent years at Latté Da. It is, however, everything this company does so well with musical theater: conceive, articulate, find the passion and tend to all the details. You can’t ask for much more than that.

Graydon Royce is a longtime Star Tribune critic.

Theater Latté Da opens Season 20 with a bold re-imagining of the musical MAN OF LA MANCHA, Broadway veteran Martín Solá stars as Don Quixote

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

August 7, 2017

Contact: Andrew Leshovsky
andrew@latteda.org
612-767-5646 office

THEATER LATTÉ DA OPENS SEASON 20 WITH A BOLD
RE-IMAGINING OF THE MUSICAL MAN OF LA MANCHA,
BROADWAY VETERAN MART
ÍN SOLÁ STARS AS DON QUIXOTE

One of the most honored musicals of the American theater, MAN OF LA MANCHA was inspired by Miguel de Cervantes’ 17th Century masterpiece Don Quixote.

MAN OF LA MANCHA features Martín Solá as Don Quixote/Miguel de Cervantes,
Meghan Kreidler as Aldonza, and Zachary Garcia as Sancho Panza.

CLICK HERE FOR PHOTOS

Performances begin September 13 at the Ritz Theater.
Single tickets and season tickets are on sale now at latteda.org or 612-339-3003.

(Minneapolis/St. Paul) Theater Latté Da today announced casting for the powerful, groundbreaking musical MAN OF LA MANCHA. Winner of 5 Tony Awards including Best Musical Play, this musical features a compelling book by Dale Wasserman, lyrics by Joe Darion and score by Mitch Leigh. Theater Latté Da Artistic Director Peter Rothstein will re-imagine the production with Resident Music Director Denise Prosek. Performances begin September 13 at the Ritz Theater (345 13th Avenue NE in Minneapolis). Single tickets and season tickets are on sale now and can be purchased at latteda.org or by calling 612-339-3003.

One of the most honored musicals of the American theater, Man of La Mancha was inspired by Miguel de Cervantes’ 17th Century masterpiece Don Quixote. It received five Tony Awards, including one for best musical play, as well as the Drama Critics Circle Award for best musical. Powerful, brutal, funny, and heartbreaking, Man of La Mancha celebrates the perseverance of one man who refuses to relinquish his ideals; and who is determined to see life “not as it is, but as it ought to be.”

“There is a quote from Cervantes’ Don Quixote that has been ringing through my mind for the past 6 or 7 months, says Artistic Director Peter Rothstein, “’when life seems lunatic, who knows where madness lies.’ I am looking forward to reimagining this great work of musical theater in a contemporary, political context.”

To launch Theater Latté Da’s 20th Anniversary season, Rothstein has assembled a dazzling cast: Martín Solá, a theater, film, and television actor, stars as the idealistic knight errant Don Quixote. Solá’s most recent appearance was in Gloria and Emilio Estefan’s Broadway musical On Your Feet. He made his Broadway debut in the Tony Award-winning revival of The King and I starring Lou Diamond Phillips and Donna Murphy. Additional Broadway credits include Baz Luhrmann’s production of Puccini’s La Bohèmeand Coram Boy. “I am thrilled to be joining the company of Man of La Mancha at Theater Latté Da,” says Solá. “Cervantes and Quixote are amazingly complex and iconic figures, the likes of which an actor longs to play. I am also looking forward to spending time in the Twin Cities again, and exploring Minneapolis. In 2004, I was on tour with The King and I and we played the Ordway in Saint Paul. I have very fond memories of my time there.”

The production also features Twin Cities emerging artist Meghan Kreidler as the vivacious and tortured Aldonza. Kreidler most recently appeared in Mixed Blood’s production of Vietgone to much critical acclaim. Described as one of the area’s best talents, Kreidler has also appeared in Mu Performing Arts/Park Square Theatre’s production of Flower Drum Song and Mu Performing Arts production of A Little Night MusicZachary Garcia, starring as Sancho Panza, recently appeared as Woody in Theatre in the Round’s production of Six Degrees of Separation and Hal in Proof at Artistry.

Several cast members will make their debut in Theater Latté Da’s first production of the season. Jon-Michael Reese, who recently appeared in public readings of Five Points and Goddess as part of Theater Latté Da’s NEXT Festival 2017, is featured as the Padre; Rodolfo Nieto makes his debut as Dr. Carasco; Dan Hopman  returns to Latté Da as the Captain of the Inquisition (Latté Da: Into the Woods); Sara Ochs as the Housekeeper and Maria (Latté Da: Sweeney Todd); Andre Shoals as the Innkeeper (Latté Da: Peter and the Starcatcher); Matt Riehle as the Barber (Latté Da: C.); McKinnley Aitchinsonmakes her Latté Da debut as Antonia/Moorish Girl.

MAN OF LA MANCHA features scenic design by Michael Hoover, costume design by Rich Hamson, and lighting design by Marcus Dilliard.

Theater Latté Da is an award-winning Twin Cities musical theater company that combines music and story to illuminate the breadth and depth of the human experience. The company seeks to create new connections between story, music, artists, and audience by exploring and expanding the art of musical theater.  www.latteda.org

FACT SHEET:

MAN OF LA MANCHA

Book by Dale Wasserman
Lyrics by Joe Darion
Music by Mitch Leigh
Inspired by Miguel de Cervantes’ masterpiece Don Quixote
Directed by Peter Rothstein
Music Direction by Denise Prosek

Featuring: McKinnley Aitchison, Zachary Garcia, Dan Hopman, Meghan Kreidler, Rodolfo Nieto, Sarah Ochs, Jon-Michael Reese, Matt Riehle, Martín Solá, and Andre Shoals

Dates: Wednesday, September 13 – Sunday, October 22, 2017

Venue: Ritz Theater (345 13th Avenue NE, Minneapolis MN 55413)

One of the most honored musicals of the American theater, Man of La Mancha was inspired by Miguel de Cervantes’ 17th Century masterpiece Don Quixote. It received five Tony Awards, including one for best musical play, as well as the Drama Critics Circle Award for best musical. Powerful, brutal, funny, and heartbreaking, Man of La Mancha celebrates the perseverance of one man who refuses to relinquish his ideals, and who is determined to see life “not as it is, but as it ought to be.”

Performance Dates and Times:

Wednesday, September 13 at 7:30 PM (Preview)
Thursday, September 14 at 7:30 PM (Preview)
Friday, September 15 at 7:30 PM (Preview)
Saturday, September 16 at 7:30 PM (Opening Night)
Sunday, September 17 at 2:00 PM (Post-Show Discussion)
Wednesday, September 20 at 7:30 PM
Thursday, September 21 at 7:30 PM (Post-Show Discussion)
Friday, September 22 at 7:30 PM
Saturday, September 23 at 2:00 PM
Saturday, September 23 at 7:30 PM
Sunday, September 24 at 2:00 PM (Post-Show Discussion)
Wednesday, September 27 at 7:30 PM
Thursday, September 28 at 7:30 PM (Post-Show Discussion)
Friday, September 29 at 7:30 PM
Saturday, September 30 at 2:00PM
Saturday, September 30 at 7:30PM
Sunday, October 1 at 2:00PM (Post-show Discussion)
Wednesday, October 4 at 7:30PM
Thursday, October 5 at 7:30PM (Post-show Discussion)
Friday, October 6 at 7:30 PM
Saturday, October 7 at 2:00PM
Saturday, October 7 at 7:30 PM
Sunday, October 8 at 2:00 PM (Post-Show Discussion)
Wednesday, October 11 at 7:30 PM
Thursday, October 12 at 7:30 PM (Post-Show Discussion)
Friday, October 13 at 7:30 PM
Saturday, October 14 at 2:00 PM
Saturday, October 14 at 7:30 PM
Sunday, October 15 at 2:00 PM (Post-Show Discussion)
Wednesday, October 18 at 7:30 PM
Thursday, October 19 at 7:30 PM (Post-Show Discussion)
Friday, October 20 at 7:30 PM
Saturday, October 21 at 2:00 PM
Saturday, October 21 at 7:30 PM
Sunday, October 22 at 2:00 PM

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