"Quixote Nuevo": Hombre de la Plancha, Early Stages

Emilio Delgado in "Quixote Nuevo"
(photo: T. Charles Erickson)

The new play with music, Quixote Nuevo, being performed as part of the Huntington Theatre Company's current season, may seem familiar, at least with respect to its main characters and general themes. After all, this tale of a somewhat loony (dare one say quixotic?) cavalier in 17th century Spain has morphed over the centuries from an iconic novel by Miguel Cervantes, to several films, an opera, a symphony, and perhaps its most successful adaptation as a piece of musical theater in Man of la Mancha. 

Emilio Delgado & Cast of "Quixote Nuevo"
(photo: T. Charles Erickson)

Updated to the present and relocated to La Plancha (literally “grilled on a metal plate”), a fictional town on the Texas/Mexico border, this version centers around a former literature professor and Cervantes scholar with early stages of dementia, Jose Quijano (Emilio Delgadi, who has portrayed Luis the lovable repairman on “Sesame Street” for four decades), who sets out not against windmills but the border patrol in search of Dulcinea (Gisela Chipe), a migrant worker on his father's ranch who has returned to Mexico. As in all previous iterations of the basic story, he is accompanied by his second banana, ice cream vendor Sancho Panza/Manny Diaz (Juan Manuel Amador) who helps him evade ICE. Our intrepid duo also has to evade Death Himself (Hugo E. Carbajal), as portrayed as one of group of guitar players or Calacas. Meanwhile the hero's sister plans to put him in an assisted living facility. Full disclosure: this critic has worked as a nurse for three different companies that provide such environments, and is quite familiar with the quandary of whether and when to remind a resident of their names or join her or him in a self-created world of one's own imagination. Can one blame this Quixote for persevering in his quest? And here's the rub: should one view Alzheimer's as funny?

Hugo E. Carbajal in "Quixote Nuevo"
(photo: T. Charles Erickson)

The first act (beginning with this new Quixote's challenge: “I know who you are, I know what you want”) is laced with sophomoric humor akin to the sort of dialogue one might encounter in a typical Hasty Pudding Club review, with silly allusions to Iron Man, Hoover vacuums, Game of Thrones, and scatalogically puerile bits of business. The second act gets a bit more serious, spotlighting Orlando Arriaga as Padre Perez (and other roles, a bit confusing). It is during several scenes with more sober content that the story at last comes alive. Written by Octavio Solis, one of the storytellers of the Oscar-winning Disney film “Coco”, it's meant as a funny take on this perennial fantasy, and to some extent it succeeds. It ends with our knight errant exclaiming as he dies: “How it trembles like the wall of Jericho (see, there's this wall along the border and all). . Fall, you horror! Fall and make room for Quixote!” to which Sancho declares: “I'm here, say the word”. But it's all for naught, a quest doomed to failure from the onset. Along the way, there are numerous opportunities for the talented cast of nine to excel, and they do, especially with respect to Delgadi's forlorn hero, whose performance is charming. The expert creative team includes Scenic Design by Takeshi Kata, Costume Design by Rachel Anne Healy, Lighting by Brian J. Lilienthal, Sound Design by David R. Molina and Musical Composition by Molina and Eduardo Robledo.

Emilio Delgado & Cast in "Quixote Nuevo"
(photo: T. Charles Erickson) 

First seen at California Shakespeare, this completely revised work is now a Co-Production of Hartford Stage, Houston's Alley Theatre and our own Huntington Theatre Company. Directed by KJ Sanchez, who had urged Solis (who grew up in El Paso on the border and was a consultant on the terrific Oscar-winning “Coco” animated film) to attempt this task. Solis wisely chose to expose cultural identity and memory, even on a personal level, and how much this can change as it both “sweetens our soul and torments it at the same time”. He asks if we can mend the past and go backwards in the same manner that we go forward, and can see the past in an entirely different light, with that knowledge changing us. Though it's a difficult process, putting ourselves under a microscope of sorts, he maintains that it's well worth the healing that may ensue. The same could be said for an audience member's enjoyment, if this sort of unsubtlety is her or his bag.

Share this impossible dream at Huntington Avenue Theater till December 8th.

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