Sunday, October 02, 2016

"Cervantes: El Ultimo Quixote"

Number two for this weekend was the next to the last performance (a matinee) of GALA Hispanic Theater's "Cervantes: El Ultimo Quixote".  I'll give you the lay of the land up-front.  The performance was entirely in Spanish.  There were two large screen TV--one on either side of the stage up high projecting English translations.  While appreciated, you can't really look at a screen up high and off stage and the play at the same time--AND so much of the dialogue was delivered so rapidly that the English text was flashing past like a blue light special at K-mart! 

Ergo, I certainly got the gist of the plot, while I also missed a lot of the subtler aspects--although the acting style was not what I would call subtle in the least.  There was constant motion and throwing things and spilling things and drinking things and pouring things, and at every moment of key insight into Cervantes' life there was a stuffing a wads of paper from his manuscripts into his mouth so that he would metaphorically choke on his own words... (Like I said, nothing subtle!)

The story starts with the announcement of Cervantes death and then a drunk patron of the tavern who claims to have known him proceeds to prove it, by retelling events from his life and his tortured self-doubting as a writer.  There is a particularly graphic gay sex scene from his time a prison in Seville... Who knew?

So what can I say with authority, since the quality of the writing is off the table?  Have you ever gone to a play in a language that you were only marginally competent in? (Ending that sentence in a preposition my lead some to suggest the same of my English fluency!)  You might be like me, you might become extra aware of the actors' faces, or the way they use their face to convey emotion and meaning.  If you are, then you would appreciate best of all Luz Nicolás who played at various points Cervantes wife, Catalina; his sister, Magdalena; and a reveler in the Tavern scenes.  Oscar de la Fuente's performance as Cervantes was tour de force acting, as well.  The ensemble was small (6 men and 2 woman) who all except de la Fuente played multiple characters.  Three members of the cast were from Madrid as this production was also one in a long line of joint ventures between GALA and el Programa de Internacionalización de la Cultura Español. 

The theater itself was surprisingly small.  The staff was amazingly helpful.  And almost everything else that was communicated around, before, and after the play by anyone present was done so in English...  I didn't get a sense that the crowd was particularly Anglo either.  I would go again to another production, but hopefully with someone who is bi-lingual.

 Our hero pontificating for his Wife and Maid.
 In prison in Seville....things are about to get really "interesting".
 A visitation by his dead mistress as his sister torments him....
I had an impossible time finding a image of the ensemble...this was the best one they had available on line.  

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