July 20, 2008

Review: ‘Man of La Macha’, ‘Harvey’ Each Have Something Special to Offer

By Terry Rindfleisch, La Crosse Tribune, Wis.

Jul. 20--LANESBORO, Minn. -- You can live the impossible dream and get to know an imaginary rabbit in the Commonweal Theatre Company's summer productions of "Man of La Mancha" and "Harvey." One of the best things about both productions, now playing in repertory through Oct. 25, is the star of both shows, Commonweal founder and managing director Eric Bunge.

The Spring Grove, Minn., native, who is back on stage at the Commonweal for the first time since 2004, is phenomenal in both plays as an actor who can play a bold, valiant dreamer, Don Quixote, and then can transform himself into a calm, caring and nice person, Elwood P. Dowd, who believes in his giant white rabbit friend, Harvey.

Bunge is convincing in both roles and brings a sensitivity, freshness and credibility to the characters that connect with the audience. That is his brilliant acting.

I happened to see both plays the same day last weekend.

"Man of La Mancha" was charming and delightful, although the singing is not this cast's forte. But Bunge and his fellow cast members sing well enough to tell this great story.

Troy Iverson, a 2007 Viterbo University graduate, adds a good singing voice with his sweet portrayal as Don Quixote's manservant. The ensemble work is a joy and gives energy and life to this production. Rick Nance is one of my favorite characters as the governor and innkeeper.

The lighting design, which forms the action of a windmill, and the set design, which includes stairs to the dungeon, create this wonderful world of adventure.

"Harvey," which won the Pulitzer Prize for drama, is lovable and fun to watch at every turn. As Elwood's family struggles to put up with his nonsense, one marvels at his tolerance and ability to always think the best of the people around him.

The cast is marvelous, from Hal Cropp and Scott Dixon as the psychiatrists to superb supporting roles by Stela Burdt as Myrtle Mae and Jill Underwood as registered nurse Ruth Kelly.

Adrienne Sweeney gives a tremendously funny performance as the highly anxious and overexcited Veta. The easily movable set design was impressive.

It's hard to pick a favorite from the two plays. "Man of La Mancha" gives one a sense of hope that right will prevail over wrong, and "Harvey" makes one believe in the best in people, and that niceness and politeness triumph. Great messages to take away from the theater and out into the real world.


Call Commonweal Theatre for dates and times of performances at 1-800-657-7025, or go online at www.commonwealtheatre.org.

Terry Rindfleisch can be reached at [email protected], or (608) 791-8227.


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