Even if you haven’t read all 1,000 or so pages of Cervantes’ classic Don Quixote, chances are you’ve at least heard of the character and have a vague understanding of his story. Knight-errant in shining armor. The flighty, yet loyal sidekick. An imaginary damsel in distress. Chivalry is dead, etc. The story is so iconic, so literarily groundbreaking, that it has seen countless reinterpretations in the 400 years since its original publication. Creative minds have already squeezed all they could out of this rich, though admittedly bizarre story, right? Wrong. Ochre House Theater’s Matthew Posey, in collaboration with the 2019 Dallas Flamenco Festival, debuts La Muerte de Don Quixote, a 70-minute concoction of humor, whimsical adventure, and, most importantly, flamenco.
The theatrical fantasia picks up from where the novel more or less left off, following our hero on the last day of his life. In some ways, Posey’s vision of Don Quixote reflects that of Cervantes’. Transience and mortality are themes that echo throughout the story, as Don Quixote continues his struggle to grasp reality and reconcile his conflicting feelings regarding love, loss, failure, and ultimately Death itself. These weighty themes simultaneously juxtapose with the cast of colorful supporting characters and hilarious dialogue.
“Everyone is familiar with the iconic Don Quixote, so I decided to narrow it down to the last day of Don Quixote’s life where he’s on his death bed,” Posey says. “We’re doing it comedia, so it’s very funny. In a sense, it’s a broad comedy, but I think it really adheres to the insanity of Don Quixote’s adventures. Cervantes really did write a funny book, though some people may not think it to be so.”
Cervantes may have had a sense of humor, but Posey brings these witticisms to the 21st century by allowing absurdity and creativity to rule the stage. Clownish companions Sancho Panza (Chris Sykes) and Padre (Omar Padilla) can make a joke out of any situation, and they certainly do not disappoint. Hands down, the funniest scene involves a carrot spear and a sausage sword. I’ll not ruin it with an explanation, so use your imagination for that one. (No, don’t take your mind out of the gutter!)
With prestige and humor in its corner, La Muerte has more to offer still with its sometimes simple, sometimes passionate, always energetic flamenco numbers. This is Ochre House’s eighth year partnering with Dallas Flamenco Festival. Delilah Buitrón Arrebola (Dulcinea in La Muerte) founded The Flame Foundation, the parent nonprofit to the Dallas Flamenco Festival. As a friend and a colleague of Arrebola, Posey hosted many of the festival’s events at the Ochre House Theater before the two decided to collaborate their skills: theater and flamenco.
“Matt has always hosted us from the very beginning doing just a regular show and then we began collaborations. [Dallas Flamenco Festival] is a whole month’s series of events from different restaurants to all of our children’s programs, bringing in artists throughout the month,” Arrebola says, “Lots of events that just really bring people a taste of flamenco, and flamenco in Dallas specifically. What we are doing at the Ochre House is unique, there’s really nothing like this.”
“Unique” is a modest description. Having never really seen a flamenco performance before, I was taken aback by the zeal and interconnectivity among both the dancers and the musicians. Ochre Theater is an intimate space, seating maybe 50 people at most. The walls, decorated by local muralist Izk Davies, shook with each stomp of the dancers’ heeled shoes on the wooden stage. Sitting in the front row, only a couple of feet away from the epicenter, I could feel the beat in my bones. From small theater to Spanish fable to vivacious stage, there’s only one thing left to say for La Muerte: ¡Olé!
Ochre House Theater’s La Muerte de Don Quixote runs through June 29, 2019. Admission is $25.