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‘Don Quixote’ gets a contemporary refresh in Huntington production

Celina Colby
Celina Colby
Celina Colby is an arts and travel reporter with a fondness for Russian novels.... VIEW BIO
‘Don Quixote’ gets a contemporary refresh in Huntington production
Emilio Delgado and Hugo E. Carbajal in the Huntington Theatre Company’s production of Quixote Nuevo. PHOTO: T CHARLES ERICKSON

The Huntington Theatre Company is peeling off a whole new layer of Cervantes in “Quixote Nuevo,” running through Dec. 8. Written by Octavio Solis (one of the storytellers behind Disney’s “Coco”) and directed by KJ Sanchez, the show is a poignant exploration of the human condition and a love letter to Latinx culture and experience.

The reimagined telling of the classic Spanish story “Don Quixote” follows a retired professor on the Texas/Mexico border who is battling dementia. In his neuro-divergent state, he believes he is Don Quixote from the literature he taught, and he goes off on a quest. But in this updated version of the story, he’s not fighting windmills but the border patrol separating Mexico from the United States.

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‘Through the play, we learn that we all have different kinds of walls that we are always trying to break down,” says Sanchez, who also directed the debut performance of the show in 2018. “The walls between family members, the walls between what we dream of doing and what we really do, the wall between life and death, and the border walls as well.”

The lead character Jose Quijano, who imagines himself as Quixote, is played by Emilio Delgado, another veteran from the premiere of the show. Delgado is known for his 44-year run on Sesame Street as Luis, the handyman and aspiring writer, and the first human character on the show. Director Sanchez says that although she enjoyed Delgado as the beloved Luis character, she never saw the breadth of his acting talent until “Quixote Nuevo.”

“This is, I think, equivalent to playing King Lear in Shakespeare’s play, the kind of craft that is required of an actor who plays this role. I’m in awe every day of how much deeper and more authentic Emilio gets,” she says.

The Huntington is working hard to incorporate Boston’s Latinx community in the production, with events like a talk on Nov 18 with the playwright Solis in partnership with the Jamaica Plain Latin Quarter’s Hyde Square Task Force. On Nov. 21, the Huntington will host Latinx Community Night, a performance of the show that offers tickets for $20 apiece to Latinx community members, a pre-show reception and a post-show conversation with Solis. Viewers can use the code “COMMUNITY” when checking out online to access this discount.

“These people and these stories matter. To see yourself on stage means a lot,” says Sanchez. “It also allows us to laugh at our own iconography. We can laugh at the way we use language, the way we relate to each other in our families. It’s a celebration as much as it is a love letter to Latinidad.

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