The errant knight of the woeful countenance is not only confronting windmills but, in the summer tour of “Don Quijote: His Last Adventure” offered by the Puerto Rican Traveling Theater, laying siege to borough schoolyards, bandshells and city parks. On a sweltering Sunday afternoon, the company was tucked into the corner of a New Jersey supermarket parking lot, where a noisy neighbor trimmed hedges with roaring electric clippers and soaring temperatures reduced the audience to a handful. The valiant company nevertheless offered an amusing vest-pocket adaptation, a mini-musical freely adapted by Margarita Galban and Lina Montalvo from Cervantes’ epic novel.
Performing in Spanish, the actors overcome the obstacles with big, broad, colorful perfs. Despite its brevity, the narrative boasts an adventurous sweep laced with expressive humor.
Persuading the local merchants he can produce a play in their marketplace (an apt scenario), lean and lanky playwright Leon (Ivan Camilo) transforms himself into the wily Don Quijote. Assisted by his clownish faithful servant, Sancho Panza (Jesus Martinez), the knight relates his adventures, his quest and his boundless adoration for a Spanish noblewoman named Aldonza, whom Quijote envisions as the comely tavern wench Dulcinea (Romina Polnoroff).
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While the play lacks the passion of Dale Wasserman’s 1965 musical “Man of La Mancha,” the timeless tale with its heady dash of idealism, bravery and romance still holds wide appeal. This time around, the traveling players throw themselves into their roles with fierce and gleeful abandon.
Gloria Zelaya’s staging is direct and functional. She has managed to avoid a crowded look despite a small playing space. The perf had been moved from a raised, sun-baked stage in the center of the parking lot to a flat shaded asphalt area. The simple set suggested an adobe with its Moorish scalloped rooftop.
The modest musical moments are infectiously flavorful. But surely the gallant players were melting in their colorful 16th century costumes.
The free touring company, now in its 39th season under the direction of founder Miriam Colon, performs in all five New York boroughs. Tour continues in Brooklyn and Manhattan, with final perfs in Riverside Park on Saturday and Central Park bandshell Sunday.