Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
Also see Susan's review of Toni Stone
Solis' epic is a modern retelling of Miguel de Cervantes' Don Quixote that is also an examination of politics and prejudice on the Mexico-Texas border, a story of long-lost love, and a celebration of personal and societal memory, animated by David Molina's infectious music and incorporating life-size puppets designed by costume designer Helen Huang. Director Lisa Portes ably serves as the ringmaster of nine performers constantly in motion and, on occasion, Milagro Ponce de León's ever-shifting set.
Herbert Siguenza dominates the action as Jose Quijano, a retired professor of literature (specifically Don Quixote) who is slipping into Alzheimer's disease. His devoted sister (Isabel Quintero) and niece (Jyline Carranza) can no longer take care of him at home and want to place him in a care home; as far as Jose can see, that's a living death. He's also besieged by visions of Papa Calaca (Raúl Cardona), an emissary of death, and his entourage of spirits in Huang's vivid costumes and jeweled Day of the Dead masks. Cardona is magnetic whenever he appears, sometimes slyly persuasive and at other times impressed with the way Quixote finds his true self in fantasy.
Jose takes off on a three-wheeled bike on which he has mounted the skull of his long-ago horse Rocinante, wearing "armor" cobbled together from automobile parts. Manny Diaz (Ernie González Jr.), a seller of frozen treats from a pedal cart, soon becomes his Sancho Panza. Solis has crafted their adventures to parallel highlights of Cervantes' novel, including Quixote's appropriation of a "helmet" that's actually something quite different and an attack on "windmills" that gets him into trouble with border patrol agents.
As in the original story, this Quixote devotes his travels to finding Dulcinea, the idealized woman he loved and then lost. Peter Pasco and Sarita Ocón give moving performances as they use puppets to re-enact the couple's youthful romance.
Quixote Nuevo runs through October 3, 2021, at Round House Theatre, 4545 East-West Highway, Bethesda MD. For tickets and information, please call 240-644-1100 or visit www.roundhousetheatre.org.
By Octavio Solis