Man of La Mancha was a tremendous musical play put together by Sea View Playwright’s Theater Company in Staten Island. While the initial showing was canceled due to what appeared to be unforeseen circumstances, the show went off without a hitch the following weekend. I traveled to Staten Island with my family to enjoy La Mancha in which my own cousin had a part in. La Mancha is a play which takes place in a jail, following the story of a protagonist who wants to reclaim his writings from the hierarchy of prisoners there. This theater company however decided to add a modern twist on the musical, breathing new life into Dale Wasserman’s original book. When I walked through the doors, the atmosphere felt cramped and suffocating, mimicking the actual experience of the prisoners on stage. Spotlights were utilized to imbue the audience with the knowledge they’re always being watched. While their purpose was to set the mood of the play, it really created a genuine experience of the hardships of prison, especially when I turned and saw the silhouette of the spotlight operator from his viewing platform. He appeared like an faceless humanoid mass of shadow, and apart from the scare he gave me when I first noticed him directly staring at me, felt like what distraught prisoners believed their guards to look like. I will be the first to say I don’t enjoy plays or theater as much as the next guy, but the experience was incredibly enjoyable. The single most breathtaking moment was during the play’s big musical piece, “The Impossible Dream”, where the theater company’s talent for incredible vocals and singing truly showed. That’s not to say the rest of the play was equally as exciting, although I did feel as if getting to the good meant jogs between slower parts and musical pieces, though I’d chalk this up to my bias of Theatre itself.
Much of La Mancha’s immersion and symbolism came through the set design and music effect. When there wasn’t singing and choreographed dancing sequences, there were daunting audible clicks that reminded me of the setting. The haunting rattle of the prisoner’s chains along with the ominous groans of offstage prisoners continued to replay in my head even after the play finished. While I don’t particularly enjoy theater to a great degree, this was a very satisfying experience to watch one of the most enduring musical pieces of this generation. I felt truly invested in the story, and amazed through the bigger musical numbers.