Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

October 3, 2019

REVIEW: Hartford Stage, Quixote Nuevo

Hartford Stage, Hartford, CT
through October 13, 2019
by Shera Cohen

Photo by T. Charles Erikson
If one word describes Hartford Stage’s opening play of its 2019/20 season it is “colorful.” Exuberant costumes, lighting, wigs, set pieces, music, and language modernize the classic saga of “Don Quixote” ahead five centuries and beyond. Playwright Octavio Solis has fashioned nearly every important character of the original Cervantes’ novel and “Man of La Mancha” musical into accessible figures for today’s audiences.

For those who know the story, all is not light and bright in this revised version of the Spanish Inquisition. This new Quixote maintains the pained sole of an aged man on his last journey. Jose’s (Don Quixote) quest is to find his Dolcinae, yet his family’s plan is to force Jose into an assisted living facility. The updated antics of the play create obvious images from the novel and musical; i.e. a bicycle substitutes for Jose’s trusty steed, a gigantic Good Year blimp for monstrous windmills. The play is awash with fun, gymnastics, and froth, yet, not so subtle politics continuously pepper the dialogue into the 21st century.

Emilio Delgado, immediately recognized as a “Sesame Street” regular, portrays Jose/Quixote with all mannerisms, down to the minutia of detail, of both of his characters as na├»ve in his expectations of righteousness, bewildered as to how he can help those around him, warry of single-handedly trying to unwrite the wrongs. The audience quickly feels sad that this man must travail in his pursuit of his dream. It is near impossible to picture another actor in this demanding role, in which he takes center stage in every scene.

Nine actors portray three or four characters each. With precise direction from KJ Sanchez, there is never confusion of who’s who. If Hartford Stage had prior concerns if its patrons would grasp much of the Spanish dialogue, no worries. Save for a few snippets from scenes, all is clear from watching the interaction on stage. Some in the audience referred to the dialogue at “Spanglish.” In any case, nothing important is missed. Interesting to note is that every actor, all of whom make their Hartford Stage debut in “Quixote Nuevo,” are of Spanish descent.

Juan Manuel Amador shines as Sancho Panza. While comedy seems his forte, the poignancy required in the last scenes rings true to his character. By the way, Sancho makes good use of an old ice cream cart as his donkey.  

Hartford Stage starts its season under new management. The new team have a lot to be proud of.