Here's What the Critics Said
about Henry's role as Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, the author of "Don Quixote de La Mancha", in Harry Cason's "That Certain Cervantes".
Daily Variety Review - 10/8/01 by Julio Martinez
One of the most intriguing literary adventurers in European history is Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (1547-1616), Spanish-born soldier, tax collector, prisoner, slave and poet, who has reached mythical status as the author of "Don Quixote de La Mancha". This legendary man of letters could find no greater tribute than the portrayal of Emmy Award-winner Henry Darrow ("Santa Barbara", "Resurrection Blvd."). Darrow doesn't just perform the sometimes meandering text of playwright Harry Cason. Under Debra De Liso's inspired guidance, Darrow burrows into the psyche of this complex historical figure who never found true success in his own time. Darrow also displays a wonderfully facile gift for characterization as he embodies the vocal and physical attributes of the many colorful characters who inhabit Cervantes' world, including the fictional Don Quixote, his beloved horse and his ever-faithful servant, Sancho Panza.
Cason's two-acter never settles in any area for too long, almost chaotically changing focus from Cervantes' present-day musings to his reveries of the past. De Liso's economical but insightful staging underscores every aspect of these theme changes, keeping Darrow's Cervantes on track. Her efforts are admirably supported by the synergistic production designs of Dan Smith (sets), Robert Fromer (lights) and Vince R. Gutierrez (sound). Set in 1614, the text covers one day in the life of an aged, impoverished Cervantes who is desperately anticipating the arrival of an emissary to interview him to determine if he's worthy of becoming the resident poet and playwright of the royal court. As he roams about his studio, the often forgetful writer plays devil’s advocate with himself, chiding and cajoling his spirit and his creativity to meet the challenge offered to lift himself and his family out of poverty. Trying to formulate the most impressive but diplomatic opening statement, he says "For a man without prospects there are only three open roads: the sea, the church or the king’s service." It is his distaste at feeling he has to appear non-controversial that sets his spirit reeling through the flamboyant chapters of his past, hoping to better understand himself so he can marshal his internal forces to win over the emissary. Darrow is captivating throughout. The highlight of the first act is Cervantes’ passionate recreation of his military exploits at the monumental Battle of Lopanto (1571), a naval engagement that pitted the combined Christian forces of Europe against the Muslim ships of the Ottoman Turks. There appears to be no limit to his emotional range as he segues from the passionate sounds of battle to his recollections of being imprisoned and enslaved by Algerian pirates to his deeply felt sadness at the death of his brother, killed at the Battle of Flanders. Above all, Darrow’s Cervantes is a man of humor who takes great delight in skewering the villains of his past and present. His vocal caricatures are devastating, especially the lampooning of his hated rival, successful playwright Lope de Vega. Another comic highlight is his re-creation of his embezzlement trial when he served as tax collector for the king. He feels he proved his case magnificently, but he still served 90 days. He readily admits his incarceration proved fortuitous because it offered him the leisure to begin writing the work that would make him immortal. The second act is devoted mostly to the characters from "Quixote", with Darrow making great use of vocal inflection and pantomime to relate the tale of the addled old man who believes, "As a gallant knight I shall travel the land." Darrow infuses his character with a growing confidence and belief in his own worth. By play’s end, an invigorated Cervantes proclaims, "For a man without prospects there are only three open roads: the sea, the church or the world of ideas."
The Orange Country Register Review - 10/7/01 by Lucille Deview
"That Certain Cervantes" couldn’t have arrived on stage at a more propitious time.
The brilliance, the fallibility and the painful insecurity of struggling 16th-century writer icon, Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, inspires us to be brave, to go on in the fight for good against evil. He did it by using his talent as a poet, novelist and playwright to challenge cruelty, hypocrisy and narrow vision.
This new play by Harry Cason cleverly intertwines the biography of Cervantes, often called the Spanish Shakespeare, with his most famous character – the sweetly flawed, self-mocking Don Quixote of La Mancha.
Both tilt at windmills with a broom – Cervantes in search of a patron to save himself from the abject poverty that threatens his survival as a writer, and Quixote, the idealist, in a rage against the shabby world of politics and immorality in a world that should be better than it is.
The miracle is that it takes the dazzling acting of only one man to reveal not only the flaws but the grandeur of being human in any age.
Veteran actor Henry Darrow, 68, renders a bravura performance as he plays all the roles in "That Certain Cervantes", having its world premiere at El Portal Circle Theatre in North Hollywood.
The limber, lively Darrow is the epitome of Cervantes’ despair one moment (bumbling, forgetful, confused) and the exalted believer the next (gallant, confident, secure). He illuminates his hero’s history as a student, soldier, slave, prisoner and poet, struggling for acknowledgment of his gifts and some measure of dignity.
Suddenly, without costume changes but with a convincingly different voice and posture, Darrow metamorphoses into his trusty horse, and yet again into his sidekick Sancho, even the village virgin, Marcella.
He toys with the audience, doling out laughter that verges on tears and raising the "theatrical pause" to new heights.
Darrow himself is legendary as an actor and a leader on behalf of Hispanics who, like himself, aspire to memorable roles rich in meaning.
His one-man tour-de-force as Cervantes is a culmination of a career that began when he won a scholarship in his native Puerto Rico to attend the Pasadena Playhouse in 1954. He was the first Hispanic to star in television’s "Zorro & Son"; won an Emmy for his role in the daytime drama "Santa Barbara"; and appeared in 500 episodes of various TV shows.
As a former member of the board of directors of the Screen Actors Guild and an officer in Nosotros, he devoted himself to promoting a more positive Hispanic image in film and television. But Cervantes was his dream role and he worked for years to get it staged.
The production, under the auspices of Espinoza Theatricals, LLC, is expertly directed by Debra De Liso, with a creative team that includes Dan Smith, scenic designer; Robert "Bobby" Fromer, lighting designer; and Vince Gutierrez, sound designer.
The play adds luster to the regional theatre scene and is certain to win honors for a brilliant and memorable performance by Henry Darrow, who seems the very embodiment of the great writer he portrays in "That Certain Cervantes."
Copyright 2001 – The Orange Country Register
The Valley Scene Magazine - 10/19/01 by Don Grigware
"Man of La Mancha" musicalized one part of Miguel de
Cervantes' life with much style and grace, but it relied on a large cast and one
very overpowering set to achieve the desired effect. Now an adventuresome
playwright named Harry Cason has trusted in the greatness of one Henry Darrow to
create Cervantes and a colorful array of his characters - all by himself. With a
minimal, but effective set décor by Dan Smith and basic staging by director
Debra De Liso, Cason and Darrow at once educate, entertain and enchant in
"That Certain Cervantes" at the El Portal Circle Theatre.
A very moving scene with Cervantes as a young, brave soldier
occurs at the Battle of
Lepanto in 1571 where Don of Austria granted freedom to 15,000 Spanish galley
slaves. There are also tender remembrances of Miguel and his brother who were
once ransomed while in the naval service. His brother once kissed a Jewish girl,
a fact one did not readily admit to in the time of the Inquisition, if he valued
his life, let alone his career. So should Cervantes be open about it to the
emissary? He does not fear emprisonment which he had faced many times before and
"it was a fine place for quiet meditation". Like his literary
inventions, his mind is a mix of realities and illusions.
This excerpt is from the program notes for the play. The notes were written by Leo Cabranes-Grant, who teaches at the Department of Spanish and Dramatic Arts at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
"That Certain Cervantes intentionally blurs the margins that separate historical fact from fiction, declaring its debt to the original Don Quijote. But the play also addresses our own desires and dreams, our own fantasies about Cervantes the person and Cervantes the writer. As readers and spectators, we are part of the show, we participate in the process of fashioning his legend, his image. One of the most attractive aspects of Harry Cason's play is that it reflects the "infinite variety" of Don Quijote by asking the actor who plays Cervantes to visit different registers and moods as frequently as the novel does. Watch and enjoy Henry Darrow rising to the occasion. His performance has that certain feeling good shows are made of."
This page last updated: January 03, 2005 ~ Copyright © The Henry Darrow Fan Club 1999-2005