CERVANTES : El último Quijote The last Quixote
En esta obra, Cervantes explica a manos de otro escritor la furiosa y apasionada escritura de sus últimos dos años. Con lenguaje ágil y contemporáneo, Jordi Casanovas revive los períodos borrascosos del gran escritor, sus encarcelamientos, su rivalidad y admiración por Lope de Vega, y su obsesión por el reconocimiento y la posteridad. El último Quijote nos presenta un Cervantes en pugna con la vida, enardecido y admirablemente humano.
Miguel de Cervantes acaba de fallecer. Un hombre borracho en la calle afirma que quien le mató se llama Lope de Vega, el famoso poeta. Nadie puede creer lo que dice. Este hombre contará cómo Cervantes le confió los secretos de su apasionante vida y cómo juntos encontraron, finalmente, al hombre que escribió la falsa segunda parte de El Quijote. Una historia de aventuras, de rivalidades, de amores, de secretos y de redención.
Estreno, 8 de septiembre de 2016 en el Gala Theatre de Washington DC.
La vida de Miguel de Cervantes es apasionante y apasionada. Es la vida de un hombre que se ha encontrado en muchas situaciones límite, que ha tenido que tomar decisiones y que, en muchos casos, esas decisiones se han convertido en errores. Por ese motivo, su historia, su vida, nos habla a la gente de ahora, porque su vida retrata a un hombre que supo fracasar y que supo fracasar mejor. En unos tiempos en que el conseguir éxito a tempranas edades parece algo indispensable, en unos tiempo en que éstas luchas por el éxito nos acarrean altos niveles de frustración, es una maravilla poder revivir, leer o escuchar la vida de un Cervantes que no alcanzó el éxito en aquello que amaba, la escritura, hasta que era ya muy mayor. Cervantes retomaba su escritura a la edad en que Shakespeare ya se retiraba. Y la retomó quizás cuando ya podía disfrutar absolutamente de ella. Esta maravillosa enseñanza no sólo es válida para aquellos aspirantes a escritores sino que es válida para todos aquellos que aspiramos a saber vivir. Para mí ha sido un viaje también apasionante y divertido. Me ha obligado a ponerme en la piel de otro creador, de otro escritor, y me ha obligado a comprender qué hechos de una vida terminan siendo determinantes para definir la visión particular del mundo que debe tener cualquier gran escritor, cualquier gran creador.
Jordi Casanovas. Barcelona. 20/08/2016
SOBRE EL QUIJOTE DE AVELLANEDA.
El Quijote de Avellaneda es una de los enigmas más interesantes de las letras españolas. En 1614, un tal Alonso Fernández de Avellaneda, lo que parece ser que es solamente un pseudónimo, firmaba una segunda parte del El Quijote nueve años después de ser publicada la primera parte, obviamente obra de Cervantes. En ese Quijote de Avellaneda, no faltaban los ataques i los agravios contra Miguel de Cervantes y su obra y en el propio libro se burlaba de los personajes y de las historia antes contada. Muchas son las teorías que barajan historiadores y filólogos, pero aún ninguna de esas teorías ha sido probada o corroborada. Por eso, éste agujero negro en la historia de Cervantes, le es útil a un servidor para fantasear sobre la posible autoría de tal libro, llamado apócrifo, que marcaría un antes y un después en el oficio de escritor de Miguel de Cervantes.
Cervantes; The Man
There are two things you must know to enjoy the current show, “Cervantes The Last Quixote” at GALA Theatre thru October 2nd. First you must be a student and admirer of the great Miguel de Cervantes, author of Don Quixote, and second you must be an avid, sophisticated theatre aficionado who enjoys the nuances and subtlety of fine theatrical entertainment. The first is because at the very center of this exquisite tour de force is the figure and presence of the grand master himself, performed with inimitable and prodigious grace and refinement by Oscar de la Fuente. The character of Cervantes is at the very heart and soul of this ‘oeuvre’. The work was commissioned by GALA and produced with Accion Sur, an ensemble based in Madrid, Spain.
More than that however you must be an avid student of the very highest and finest form of theatre to understand the nature and symbolism of what is being presented. To put it differently, The Last Quixote is not a play in the normal plot, storyline, climax and conclusion sense. It is funny in parts, tragic in others and always brilliant in its words and assemblage (impeccable direction by Jose Luis Arellano). The dialogues between the character representing Lope de Vega (masterfully enacted by Eugenio Villota) and Cervantes represent superb writing and masterful delivery. The abstract set which converts to a myriad of uses, the piles of crushed newsprint that sloppily and haphazardly cover the entire stage during most of the mise-en-scene and represent the plays, letters, notes, missives and assorted literary paraphernalia of the authors and the subtle yet complex lighting schemes all represent GALA Theatre at its finest.
After multiple Helen Hayes awards and a string of outstanding plays over a period of easily more than 10 years now, our ‘National Cultural Center’, the most successful Spanish language community theatre on the east coast south of New York City has achieved a level of prestige and sophistication that has outdistanced the audience it supposedly serves. The Last Quixote could have just as easily opened at the Teatro Real in Madrid or the Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires. It is that good. But the problem is that Washington DC is neither.
For some time now GALA Theatre has had problems attracting steady audiences. This is not a secret and certainly nothing shameful. It is, after all, a place where works are performed in a foreign language and in as much as Washington is changing, growing and becoming ever more international, sustaining a theatre such as GALA is not a simple task. But when I watched this astonishing, breathtaking piece of work all I could think about is who was this constructed for. It is above and beyond the average DC Spanish language theatre goer and way over the head of any high schooler with sufficient Spanish skills to even understand it and, unless you are a scholar, a philosopher or a lover of ‘la lengua de Cervantes’ (the language of Cervantes) you can get lost in the entanglements, double entendres and literary fisticuffs that go on. In other words, some of the arguments feel like inside baseball between one great author and another over perceived slights, insults and literary put downs -all quite interesting if you’re able to follow it.
To my mind GALA Theatre has gotten carried away by the appeal of working with theatre companies from around the world, commissioning works and mingling with some of the finest artists in the field. The play seems more fit for that elite than for its basic and most receptive audiences. In designing their season and figuring out what to do during its 40th year GALA has focused on what its producers wanted to tackle, not what its audience was prepared to invest time and money to experience.
I adore GALA Theatre. I have been a fan since its very beginning and I know that the leadership at the Theatre will not like this criticism and it has been difficult to express it. It hurts to think you live in a town where folks would run to see a version of Man of La Mancha as a tribute to the 400th anniversary of the death of Cervantes before spending the energy to digest something of this caliber, but that is a truth the theatre knows all too well.
If you’re like most Americans, you’ve probably never heard of Cervantes. Or you know him only as the creator of Don Quixote, a book you last picked up in high school.
The play is based on the fact that few people know anything about Cervantes, whose death—400 years ago at the age of 69—marks the beginning of this fictional tribute to the author.
In this re-telling, Cervantes—played with alternating gusto, rage and sorrow by Ṓscar de la Fuente—assumes the role of the much-loved Man from La Mancha.
His sidekick is Martin, a bumbling bookseller’s assistant who drinks too much. Played by Samy Khlalil, he is the counterpart of Sancho Panza, the comic servant who leads his master on a mad pursuit across Spain, in search of the villain who plagiarized Cervantes’ work and thus stole his masterpiece and name. Khalil is wonderfully funny.
Eugenio Villota is Lope de Vega, the successful playwrite who is Cervantes’ nemesis. A former circus performer, he brings an almost acrobatic grace to some of the fight scenes.
All three of these fine actors—stars of stage, television and film in Spain—have been imported by GALA as part of its annual joint production with the Spanish Government’s office of cultural affairs, Accion Cultural Espanola.
Other leading lights of Spanish theatre are Cervantes’ Playwright Jordi Casanovas, whose work is currently on view at theatres around the world, and the play’s director, José Luis Arellano, whose staging of Yerma at GALA last season won a 2016 Helen Hayes Award.
The extraordinary Luz Nicolás, who is originally from Spain but is now a member of the GALA company, plays several roles, including that of Catalina, Cervantes’ proud but long-suffering wife. Last seen at GALA in Señorita y Madame: The Secret War of Elizabeth Arden and Helena Rubinstein, Nicolás is particularly remembered for her vivid performance in Yerma.
Another Spanish native, now living in New York, is Soraya Padrao. She plays the role of Cervantes’ mistress with gleeful abandon before playing her opposite, the servant Isabel.
Although the story begins with the death of Cervantes, it quickly switches to flashback, as Martin, the drunken companion, tells about the events of his hero’s life.
After service in the army and capture as a prisoner of war, Cervantes returns to Spain where he writes countless plays that are not produced. Finally—at the age of 58—he writes Don Quixote. Based on his own life, the book, considered the world’s first modern novel, is a huge success. But the author refuses to write the long-promised sequel, known as Part II.
It is not until eight years later, when a book purporting to be his is published, that Cervantes is jolted into action. The fake Don Quixote quickly becomes a best-seller, but it is such a put-down of the original that it threatens to destroy Cervantes’ reputation as the “Shakespeare of Spain.”
The question, then, is ‘Who did it?’ And why would anyone want to frame our hero?
The answers come in Act II, when the two friends embark on their search for the author of the fake Quixote.
The eight performers, five of whom play multiple roles, move back and forth through time, occupying a single set that is, by turns, a Moorish prison, a battleground, a tavern full of rowdy actors, the proper home of the playwright himself and various meeting places along the way.
Designed by Silvia de Marta, another Spanish import and fellow winner of a 2016 Helen Hayes Award for last season’s Yerma, the set consists of a façade with three doors and a couple of tables. Lighting and stage management allow its transformation into dozens of other worlds.
Lighting Designer Christopher Annas-Lee—also winner of a 2016 Helen Hayes Award for Yerma—dispenses clouds of smoke and shadow, creating the illusion of battlefields and inns.
De Marta also designed the costumes, which range from prim to sluttish for the women and ducal or serf-like for the men. The nobles—except for Cervantes himself—wear pleated ruffs, while the bit players are dressed in white shirts. At times, they coalesce into a Greek chorus.
In the hands of Stage Manager Nelly Díaz-Rodríguez and Production Manager Lena Salins, the wooden tables of the tavern are turned into cages and hiding places. There are fight scenes and wonderfully sexy animations, as men variously morph into animals or walls.
In a particularly poignant touch, pages of manuscripts are strewn across the set as play after play by Cervantes is turned down in favor of his increasingly popular rival. Alicia Tessari is the Prop Designer who uses torn pages as symbols of loss and tin utensils and bowls to simulate armor.
Composer Mariano Vales provides the incidental music for Quixote. Originally from Argentina, Vales wrote both the music and lyrics for Las Polacas: The Jewish Girls of Buenos Aires, (nominated for a 2016 Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Musical.) His next musical will have its premiere at GALA in 2017.
Alvaro Luna is the projection designer who created the dates and scenes that appear as video images on the set, and April Kelli Sturdivant is the resident sound engineer at GALA.
As a play, Cervantes: The Last Quixote is as much a puzzle as the one it sets out to solve. Act II is far better than Act I, which—as performed on opening night—sometimes resembled a tower of rage and unmitigated confusion. This is particularly true of the fight scenes, where there is so much shouting—often by two or three actors at once—that it is difficult to make sense of what is happening.
Part of the problem is the design of the subtitles displayed just above the stage. For the non-Spanish speakers in the audience—of whom there were many on opening night—the absence of any indication of which characters were speaking made it impossible to follow all the charges and counter-charges between Cervantes, Lopo, and their followers.
Fortunately, these problems are easily resolved. And Act II, in which the adventures of this unlucky knight and his comic disciple unfold, is perfect.
My advice to readers of DCMetroTheateArts? See Cervantes, by all means, but persevere.