A gritty take on ‘Mancha’

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Clarke Reader
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Don Quixote” is one of the most famous works of literature ever written, but not many people know the life of its creator, Miguel de Cervantes.

The musical “Man of la Mancha” is based on actual events that happened to Cervantes, and takes the audience on a thrilling ride into a play within a play.

“Man of La Mancha” will play at the Arvada Center, 6901 Wadsworth Blvd., from March 26 through April 14. Performances will be 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, 1 p.m. Wednesday and 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

“You’ve never seen ‘Man of la Mancha’ like you have at the Arvada Center,” said director, Rod A. Lansberry. “This is definitely a darker, and grittier version of the show, but the situation and roughness really dictate that.”

The story takes place in a prison, run by the Spanish Inquisition, where Cervantes (William Michals) and his manservant (Ben Dicke) are awaiting judgment for crimes they didn’t committ. While waiting, their fellow prisoners decide to hold a trial of their own against Cervantes, and if he is found guilty, his possessions — and life’s work — will be destroyed.

In an effort to have his possessions spared, Cervantes offers a play, with all the prisoners participating, as his defense. The play tells the story of Alonso Quijana, an old gentleman who gets so swept away by the chivalric novels he’s read that he renames himself Don Quixote, and takes his “squire” Sancho to go questing in the Spanish countryside.

The show is unique in many ways, one of which is that the majority of actors remain on stage the entire time, because as Lansberry said, they are in a prison, and there is nowhere else they can go.

For the actors, the story is less a way for the story of Don Quixote to be told on stage, and rather an examination of Cervantes and the times he lived in.

“Everything in this is centered on Cervantes’ relationship with the other prisoners,” said Michals. “He’s entertaining people in his defense. He’s really giving his story of being inspired, and has to be convincing.”

Jennifer DeDominici, who plays the prisoner Aldonza and Dulcinea in Cervantes’ story, said her character goes through a massive transformation during the show, and she is curious about how much that change is there waiting to be discovered, and how much requires Cervantes’ efforts.

A lot of time and effort has gone into the set, lighting and sound, to create a visceral feeling of being in the violent Inquisition.

“It really goes to the idea of how do the prisoners drive the storytelling,” Dicke said. “We’re really making use of the environment, and the set really lends itself to that.”

While the Arvada Center is taking a new look at the classic, people who love standards like “To Dream the Impossible Dream” will not be disappointed.

“Anyone who loves this play is going to love this version of it,” Michals said.

For tickets and more information, call 720-898-7200 or visit www.arvadacenter.org.

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