New York and Connecticut theater reviews and news

Ethnic Theater - Spanish

"El Quijote"
Repertorio Espanol, Manhattan

Repertorio Espanol now offers an adaptation of the Cervantes classic “Don Quijote”(not the contemporary, and justly lauded, musical version, “Man of La Mancha”). This time around it is the real thing, much closer to Cervantes’ original satirical intent. This collection of 12 “Don Quijote” scenes are adapted and offered in Spanish by Santiago Garcia.

Unlike the more sentimental “La Mancha” version, “El Quijote” stresses the absurdities of Don Quijote’s quest, as he attempts to right wrongs and rescue damsels in distress. While “La Mancha” carefully points out how the love of a good man can raises a woman’s self-esteem, Cervantes will have none of that. He is, in fact, spoofing the romantic genre (prevalent in 16th century Spain) of errant knights and unsullied love. At the same time, it is the original “on the road” story, a tale of two buddies sharing a picaresque journey.

Colombian film and theatre director Jorge Ali Triana keeps a firm hand on the proceedings, as Don Quijote (Ricardo Barber) and Sancho (Emyliano Santa Cruz) stumble through a series of adventures (or “misadventures,” as Sancho calls them). Company numbers never falter, never miss a step. At the same time, the director’s creativity is unbounded. An actress, for example, turns into the figurehead on the prow of a boat, bobbing through the water, and demons (created by Quijote’s addled mind) cavort in Paula Perez’s wonderfully outlandish costumes, aided by lighting, smoke, puppets, men on stilts—and an all-round gifted cast from several Spanish-speaking countries.

Everything—staging, costumes, lighting, music, performances, direction, text—come together to make this a memorable piece. Though all in Spanish, the language poses no deterrent (though English translation via earphones is also available). This is not a stodgy classic, but a lusty, delicious version---a veritable three-ring circus.

-- Irene Backalenick
Feb. 23, 2006

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