Bring Kleenex and a sweater — the college theater hovers at a brisk 65 degrees and the presentation of “Man of La Mancha” by the Kauai Community College Music Department is heart rending. Laughter and tears are the prime ingredients in this tale of disillusionment and betrayal.
“Man of La Mancha” is a play inspired by Miguel de Cervante’s book “Don Quixote” and opens with the playwright Cervantes and his manservant being thrown into a prison filled with murderers and thieves. As the newest residents, the two are put on “trial among their peers.” The playwright and poet, played by director Greg Shepherd, convinces the angry mob to allow him to perform “an entertainment” as his defense — the story of “Don Quixote.” This is a tale that at first masquerades as buffoonery, but quickly slips into darker themes, where the most reviled qualities of mankind collide with idealism and chivalry. This is not a play for children.
Musically speaking, “Man of La Mancha” brims with talent. From the harmony of the cast, to the falsetto of the priest, to Shepherd’s resonant voice paired with a bone-chilling performance by Nalani Kaauwai Brun as an abused woman named Aldonza; there is synergy among the cast. Add to this an orchestra of six, led by Aki Conquest, and the instrumentals construct an intense atmosphere to support the drama on stage. The results sing of precision.
Other notables were the choreography and supporting actors. Nestor Figueroa plays a quintessential Sancho Panza that endears and captivates. Figueroa’s delivery is a crucial balm for the serious themes explored in this drama. The choreography by Brenda Biehler Turville unifies the action, the music and the script.
The entire package, right down to the handmade props and costumes by Esther Manning, make “Man of La Mancha” an epic production well-orchestrated. With any luck, the show will find another venue for a longer run. Tonight, tomorrow and Sunday are the last shows scheduled.