at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival
Don Quixote by Miguel Cervantes Saavedra
Word Premiere adaption by Octavio Solis
The quest of our aging, would-be knight hero failed to pass a friend’s “So what?” test, but even she enjoyed reasonably much the journey to nowhere. Her reaction sums up the night.
This bright, broad evening was simply fun. Colorful, meandering, adventure-filled. Good-spirited, obvious, raucous. Fun.
The social context of knights, by-gone chivalry, and 1600’s Spain are not part of my background. This Don Quixote didn’t bring Cervantes’ story into the 21st Century. The evening didn’t make universal any of the incidents in the narrative. If anything, modern clichés like “Titling at Windmills” and the word “quixotic” gave theater-goers insight into what they were seeing instead of vice versa. So, for me, there was not much to the play-going experience.
The plot follows Quixote from one misunderstood misstep to the next. It was a montage of cute, fun, tragic, fun.
This adaption work had no bite, meaning, or value beyond well-done entertainment. It’s enough for a happy evening, but not enough to spend much time thinking about.
Lynn Jeffries’ puppets pretty much steal the show. They were unobtrusive, but very integrated, farcical characters throughout the play. My favorite was the goose carried around by Catherine Coulson in the role of Juana Panza, wife of Don Quixote’s sidekick Sancho. That goose mugged in Coulson’s arms as Juana strutted around, and stole the scenes away from the unremarkable human dialog.
Every member of the audience seemed to have a different puppet favorite while appreciating the whole menagerie. I mean, who cannot enjoy puppet sheep whose white socks show blood red color when the sheep are slaughtered and lie dead on their backs? (Well, okay. Maybe you had to be there. But, trust me. The sheep and their socks are hits.)
Armando Durán (Don Quixote – pictured at above right) is wonderfully un-complex and engaging. Durán, like all the actors, plays his character without mockery. This straight-forward style carries the story lightly and lets the audience enjoy the physical playfulness offered on stage.
Josiah Phillips (Sancho Panza, Ensemble) is just right as the unidealistic Panza who accompanies Quixote on the quests. A cross between Sad Sack and Eeyore, Phillips also grounds, slows down, or some how repeats the illogical story and lets the audience keep on track.
The remaining cast were nimble and talented entertainers, too. They acted their caricatures energetically and professionally. Everyone on stage seemed to be having fun, and they infected the whole house with their delight.
The show is enjoyable, but not life changing. Not even evening changing. Here’s to well done fluff!