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Man of La Mancha

The Veterans Center for the Performing Arts “celebrates military veterans by developing and producing their original works, as well as examining existing works from a military perspective.” In keeping with that philosophy, the first scene of this Dale Wasserman musical is set in the mental ward of a veterans’ hospital, where author Miguel Cervantes is a patient. The play becomes grand improvisation involving only Cervantes/Quixote (Eric Tucker) and another patient, the Sergeant Major (Stephan Wolfert), known collectively as Deux Bites. Limiting the cast to two actor-singers (plus guitarist/musical director Ali Nikou) tends initially to make the piece seem like a stunt, with each of them juggling multiple roles and donning a wild array of hats, skirts, tatty wigs and accents. It’s clever, inventive and anti-illusory: Wolfert sports a full beard, giving his Aldonza a decidedly rakish air. Costumes and props are improvised, and the Don’s armor consists of hockey shin guards, a plastic tablecloth cape, and a gilded bedpan for a helmet. Both actors are versatile and capable, and, once we get used to their approach, they deliver an engaging and sometimes hilarious version of the play. Mondays, Sundays, 7 p.m. Starts: March 2. Continues through April 21, 2008

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