Patrick Ryan Sullivan is Don Quixote/Cervantes in MAN OF LA MANCHA at Titusville Playhouse. Photo by Niko Stamos.
By PAM HARBAUGH
Dreaming the impossible dream has become rather de rigueur for Titusville Playhouse.
Having revisioned itself seven years ago, and now in the midst of bringing an ailing Henegar Center under its wing, TPI directors and designers find themselves busier than ever. In addition to traveling 40 miles each way, nearly daily, the group of theater artists have, in three weeks, taken away its sumptuous set and costumes for its winning production of “La Cage aux Folles” and replaced it with a completely different, fully realized production of the quintessential musical about dreaming big — “Man of La Mancha.”
“Though the shows (‘La Cage’ and ‘La Mancha’) are very different in many facets, they both bring such hopeful messages into the world and I think we can all use some hope and unity right now,” said director Niko Stamos.
And there is the serendipitous metaphor. For the theme in “Man of La Mancha” embraces that idea of “hope and unity.”
Written by Dale Wasserman with music by Mitch Leigh and lyrics by Joe Darion, “Man of La Mancha” has been a continued favorite of theaters and audiences since 1965 when it first appeared on Broadway. Titusville’s production, which runs through March 17, stars Patrick Ryan Sullivan. (Brian Minyard filled for Patrick the first weekend).
Sullivan leads a cast of 19 tell the story of writer Miguel de Cervantes, who authored the novel “Don Quixote.” Set in a cell during the late 16th century when the Spanish Inquisition was in full bloom. Cervantes and his Manservant are thrown into prison along with a trunk of theater props. Threatened by a rough bunch of fellow prisoners, Cervantes tells them the story of Don Quixote, the knight errant who would fight windmills — to win against all odds, which was his impossible dream. The downtrodden prisoners take on various roles for the play within a play.
Victor Souffrant plays the role of a prisoner who takes on the role of the Padre. He played the same part last season in the Orlando Shakespeare Theatre’s production.
Souffrant’s character of the prisoner is a poor, contorted soul. But when he is given a robe for role of the Padre, he transforms in one beautiful musical note from a wretched creature into a graceful, elegant, noble being. With his exquisite voice, Souffrant sings the irony-laced “I’m Only Thinking of Him” with Antonia (Lillie Eliza Thomas) and the Housekeeper (Traci McGough), who profess in to being worried about their uncle and master.
“The show is about creating our own realities,” he Souffrant said. “Its message of dreaming the impossible is just as relevant and possible as it was in 1965…It teaches us that we’re obligated to better ourselves and make the world a better place.”
Finding the same meaning to the show is Kit Cleto, who takes on the role of Cervantes’ Manservant who then becomes Sancho Panza, squire and friend to Don Quixote.
“As Sancho simply states in the show ‘One madman makes a hundred, and love makes a thousand’.”
Other talents in the production include: Mary Henderson who is the sweet voiced Dulcinea; Gregory Galbreath, who just came off TPI’s production of “Love Letters” and here takes on the role of the barber; Kyle McDonald, recently co-starring in the Henegar’s “Bonnie & Clyde” is here is another ruffian; and Joey Leavitt, who coincidentally plays a prisoner-turned-prosecutor in “La Mancha” and in real life is an assistant public defender for Titusville.
The production’s design is as well-honed as the performances.
Jay Bleakney’s scenic design and Jonathan Willis’ scenic painting of a dungeon comprises great stone walls and iron bars leading into separate cells. A large staircase descends from a platform high above the stage. Willis also serves as the prop designer and came up with a most inventive way of delivering Don Quixote’s bête noire, the Knight of the Mirrors. It all is lit with moody and dank lighting designed by Luke Atkison.
All these people, including Stamos, are working on the Henegar’s “Tarzan” production at the same time. Stamos sees the symbolism, he said, when at the end of the “La Mancha,” the prisoners come together to keep up the spirit of the dream.
“It’s crazy,” Stamos said. “You sit there and you go, ‘Oh, can we do it all? Do we have the ability?’ It’s exciting to see everyone rise to the occasion and be supportive. It’s worth keeping that dream alive.”
SIDE O GRITS: “MAN OF LA MANCHA” runs through March 17 at Titusville Playhouse, 301 Julia St., Titusville. Tickets are $21 to $29. Call 321- 268-1125 or visit TitusvillePlayhouse.com.