Playing the lead in “Man of La Mancha,” which opens Wednesday at PCPA’s Marian Theatre, requires lead actor David Studwell to do three times the work. He has to play author Miguel de Cervantes, sitting in a jail cell during the Spanish Inquisition, and his creation Don Quixote, who is under the illusion that he is actually a knight of the realm and not an old country squire. That’s a lot to hold together in one’s head.
“The play is as much about Cervantes as it is about Quixote,” Mr. Studwell says.
It’s one of those roles that is so massive and large that it holds a lot of different actors,” says Derrick Lee Weeden, an actor himself. He’s talking about Cyrano de Bergerac, the famous lover and fighter with the long nose who pines for the beautiful Roxane. Despite his male bravery, he’s too self-conscious to declare his love. The classic French comedy opened last Sunday at PCPA in its Solvang theater and it runs through September 1.
“It’s like Hamlet,” he continues. “You have all these actors bringing something to it over the years.” But unlike Hamlet, it’s a role that Mr. Weeden hadn’t thought about playing until Roger DeLaurier offered it to him. Mr. Weeden sought his friends’ opinions on the matter and they all insisted on it, saying it was perfect for the actor who’s played Coriolanus, Othello, and other great classic roles. Now he’s taking on a character who many associate in its modern day remake with Steve Martin, or onstage with Derek Jacobi, Patrick Page, or Mark Harlick, and he hopes to find his place “in that river of de Bergerac as well.”