‘Man of La Mancha’ gets a time, location reset by A Noise Within in Pasadena

Foothill Blvd., Pasadena.Tickets: From $25.Running time: 1 hr., 50 min. April 16 and 30, May 21; 8 p.m. with no intermission.Suitability: Not for young children due to violence and sexual situations.Information: 626-356-3100, www.anoisewithin.org. today, May 6, 12 and 13; 2 p.m. matinees April 16, 22 and 30, May 7, 13 and 21.Where: A Noise Within, 3352 E. ★★&#x2605When: Through May 21; 7 p.m.

As musical director Dr. Indeed, a work like “Julius Caesar,” about ancient Roman politics, has been reset by various great companies in Mussolini’s Italy, in JFK’s America, or even in a dystopian future without losing its integrity. As a consistent modern interpreter of Shakespeare, ANW co-Artistic Director Julia Rodriguez-Elliott knows this. So, her decision that “La Mancha” can handle the same treatment seems particularly apt.What may be less wise on Rodriguez-Elliott’s part arises from the demands of this particular work. Melissa Sky-Eagle states up front, “Despite the folk-inspired nature of the music itself, the voices required (in “Man of La Mancha”) need to be almost operatic in nature.”
There he must defend himself against the other prisoners, who are out to steal what goods he has. He does so by enacting for them the tale he carries in a manuscript — the manuscript for his finest work, “Don Quixote de La Mancha.” Don Miguel de Cervantes, the poet, playwright and novelist seen by many as the Spanish equivalent (at least in literary impact) to William Shakespeare, has been thrown into prison by the Inquisition while awaiting trial. This creates an imbalance which sometimes distracts from not only the original message of the show, but the additional intent of this new staging.The story is, of course, a story-within-a-story. While many of the performers — a number of them new to ANW — are very much up to this demand, some of ANW’s stock players are not, really.

Yet, it is one of the hallmarks of a theatrical work that it can stand up to being reset, both in time and location. When one first hears that A Noise Within has reset the powerful 1960s musical “Man of La Mancha” in a modern prison in the developing world, it can make one nervous. The new physical trappings of the tale can inform a wider understanding of the impact of the piece, even if the actual language stays the same. After all, it is based not only on one of the great works of international literature, but a historical figure who actually did end up imprisoned by the Inquisition for a segment of time.How can one take the piece out of its historical context?
Rather, Don Quixote and Sancho ride mops as if they were hobby horses. For one, there is no dancing and thus no faux horse and mule. Interrupted on occasion by the guards, he pulls his hearers into his story, both literally — to create the needed characters — and figuratively, as they come to appreciate his view of the world.For those who know more traditional productions of this work, there are a few things missing. And that transformative moment when Cervantes becomes Quixote is dulled a bit, in that this Cervantes already has so much facial hair there is little need to add much. The props are less things that Cervantes has brought with him, and more found objects from the prison itself.