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Don Quixote (front right) and sidekick Sancho Panza with their trusty steeds in "Man of La Mancha."
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STC Ends One Season, Announces Another

The two final productions of the Sacramento Theatre Company’s 73rd season perfectly represent the year’s theme: Fate, Fantasy and Forgiveness. The first play – “Mothers and Sons,” which closes Sunday – is all about forgiveness (learning how to give it) and the second show – “Man of La Mancha,” which runs until May 13 – is full of delusional fantasy.  In their own ways, both deal with (and tempt) fate.

Terrence McNally’s “Mothers and Sons” opened on Broadway in 2014 and hasn’t been produced in Sacramento before. It takes place 20 years after the events that took place in McNally’s 1990 TV play “Andre’s Mother,” about a young American’s death from AIDS and his mother’s difficulty accepting his homosexuality. Things haven’t changed a whole lot in the intervening years, but the mother, Katharine (played by Lori Russo), visits her late son’s ex-partner, Cal (Casey McClellan), in a rather pathetic attempt to find someone other than herself to blame for Andre’s death. Katharine realizes she didn’t really know her son because she couldn’t accept him as he was – gay and happy.

The STC production, which takes place on the intimate Pollock Stage, is better than the play itself. McNally, known for such gay-centric plays as “Love! Valour! Compassion!” and “The Lisbon Traviata,” for example, seems to feel the need to incorporate the entire history of “the gay disease” and its devastation instead of concentrating solely on the emotional torment of a mother whose loss she cannot understand or accept. When she sees that his former lover has moved on, married another man and adopted a child, she first hates him for his happiness until she realizes the role her son had played in giving him the ability to love and live on.

“Mothers and Sons” plays at 8 p.m. Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday (final performance). Tickets are $30-$38.

For tickets or for more information, call (916) 443-6722 or go to SacTheatre.org.

Keeping The Dream Alive

“Man of La Mancha” is an example of the classic Broadway musical: an accessible storyline married to a string of songs both expository and enlightening. Miguel de Cervantes created the story of Don Quixote, the errant knight in 1605. Dale Wasserman transformed the tale first into a straight drama “I, Don Quixote” in 1959 and then into the book for the musical “Man of La Mancha” in 1964. Mitch Leigh wrote the music and Joe Darion provided the lyrics. The play won the 1965 Tony awards for best play and best original score, among other awards.

Taking place during the Spanish Inquisition, this play within a play tells the story of the aging Miguel de Cervantes, a failed playwright, poet and tax collector, who awaits trial for an offense against the Church (he taxed one). As he awaits trial in a dungeon prison populated by other criminals, he is accosted by his fellow inmates who steal his possessions – including his uncompleted manuscript of the novel “Don Quixote.” He offers to barter the goods back by performing a play for this kangaroo court. They agree and Cervantes and his manservant Sancho Panza transform themselves into the “mad” knight and his companion. The prisoners take the roles of other characters as Don Quixote and Sancho go on a quest to battle evil, right wrongs and restore chivalry to a rough world. It is, as one fine song puts it, “The Impossible Dream.”

Chris Vettel stars as Cervantes/Don Quixote and he is a talented actor and impressive singer. He is a bit “actorly” in his performance, however, even when his Cervantes is not pretending to be Don Quixote. Jake Mahler makes an affable Sancho Ponza and Nicole Sterling is captivating as Aldonza the tavern barmaid and part-time prostitute who becomes Quixote’s inspiration, Dulcinea. Matt K. Miller gives an inspired interpretation of the confused Innkeeper cum The Governor in Quixote’s delusionary tale; the excellent Michael RJ Campbell does double duty as The Duke and Dr. Carrasco. Urias Davis and Sam C. Jones are standouts among the talented ensemble players.

Michael Jenkinson directs the smooth-running production which benefits from Eric Broadwater’s creative set design which features easily transformable staging from dungeon to cantina to chapel. Also very impressive are the metal horseheads, reminiscent of those in “Equus,” and the surprising, ingenious windmill at which the mad Knight of the Woeful Countenance futilely tilts.

“Man of La Mancha” is performed at 7 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays, through May 13. Tickets are $15-$38.

For tickets or for more information, call (916) 443-6722 or go to SacTheatre.org.

The location for both the Pollock Stage and Main Stage productions is STC at the Wells Fargo Pavilion, 1419 H St.

Next Season

As it closes its current season, Sacramento Theatre Company announces its next series of plays – its 74th season. Among the highlights of the 2018-19 season are a production of “Steel Magnolias” (Pollock Stage, Oct. 31-Dec. 16) starring Jamie Jones (a member of the B Street Theater acting company) and Natasha Hause  (winner of last year’s BroadwayWorld Sacramento best actress award), the return of Matt K. Miller as Ebenezer Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol” (Main Stage, Nov. 28-Dec. 23) and the world premiere of “When We Were Colored” by Sacramentan Ginger Rutland (March 20-April 28).

Season subscriptions will go on sale July 1. Individual show single ticket sales will begin Sept. 1.

Photo by Charr Crail Photography.

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About the author

Jim Carnes

Jim Carnes

Jim Carnes has masters degrees in English and journalism and is a former National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow in popular culture at Stanford University. He has covered Sacramento arts and entertainment for more than 20 years. He currently writes about and reviews theater, dance, music and events in the Sacramento area.

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