Las aventuras de Don Quixote de La Mancha, Patricia Suarez’s adaptation of Cervantes’ novel (Bilingual Adaptation by Cornelia Cody), is currently delighting young audiences at GALA Hispanic Theatre at Tivoli. The play focuses on seven chapter episodes from the first part of the classic novel, magically bringing windmills and the scraggly Rocinante to life.
The most remarkable aspect of this Don Quixote is its fascinating bilingual presentation. While most of the play is performed in Spanish (without subtitles), Don Quixote himself (a commanding Manolo Santalla) is portrayed with a split personality. He delivers many of the novel’s loftier themes of chivalry in poetic English, via the persona of an elegant knight. This convention amusingly heightens the appearance of “madness” to Quixote’s Spanish-speaking cohorts; and for English speakers who are less than fluent in Spanish, it helps us to see the “real world” through the confused filter lens of the madman.
Director Hugo Medrano uses imaginative staging to keep the story engaging for young audiences. He and Lighting Designer Joseph R. Walls make particularly clever use of lighting in travel scenes, and projections designer Ismael Carrillo devises a unique solution for tilting windmills. The play is interspersed with playful music directed by Andres Holder. Elizabeth J. McFadden’s set is sparse, but effectively evokes a number of different locations.
As the doddering Don Quixote, Manolo Santalla beautifully captures the essence of one of literature’s most endearing and complex characters. Alex Iraheta demonstrates his versatility through a number of roles, but most memorably as Quixote’s portly sidekick Sancho Panza. Iraheta also proves to be an impressive vocalist in the musical numbers. Lucrecia Basualdo and the lovely Anabel Marcano steal the show in a host of comedic character roles. They astound young audience members with lightning-fast costume changes (creatively designed by Dan Iwaniec).
At times, the adaptation feels a bit heady for the youngest of elementary school children, but there are enough “burps and farts” peppered throughout the work to thrill the groundlings. As Don Quixote adaptations go, you won’t find a more authentic introductory experience for your child than the artists at GALA provide.
Running Time: Approximately one hour, with no intermission.
Las aventuras de Don Quixote de La Mancha plays through March 28, 2013 at Teatro Hispano GALA (GALA Hispanic Theatre) – 3333 14th Street, NW, in Washington, DC. For tickets, call (202) 234-7174, or purchase them online.