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"In Praise of Folly: The Don Quixote Project"

Peculiar Works Projects presented "In Praise of Folly: The Don Quixote Project" at 40 Worth St., 13th Floor, between Church and West Broadway, Tribeca. June 10-27. Closed June 27.
Reviewed by Robert Hicks on June 27, 2004.

Few of the episodes in Peculiar Works Projects' ambitious site-specific theatrical interpretations of Cervantes' picaresque classic captured the humorous spirit of the Spaniard's satire on the chivalric romance and courtly love traditions of the Middle Ages championed by his knight errant Don Quixote.

There were three noteworthy exceptions. Fernando Maneca's "Between The Books" hilariously recreated Don Quixote's rivalry and duel with Sancho Ponza who posed as the knight errant's imposter. The skit was well acted and full of humorous pop cultural allusions and gave a delightfully witty reference to Puck's play within a play from Shakespeare's "Midsummer Night's Dream" as well as a Woody Allenesque authorial voice that Don Quixote mistook as God. Alec Duffy's skit "The Tale of Our Hero's Visit to a McDonald's Restaurant with his trusty Squire, Sancho, and their Encounter with a Curious Pair" was a marvelously funny, contemporary take on Don Quixote's adherence to courtly love traditions and it inventively used physical humor to satirize Don Quixote's dependence on Sancho Ponza and it reveled in Don Quxote's own foibles and impractical nature. Yanira Castro's "The First of All Hacks" opened the lengthy journey with a satire on deconstructionist literary theory and its preoccupation with text and meaning. Cervantes was portrayed as a chain-smoking hack that depended on his literary agent and on the cowboy buffoonery and lust of a latter-day Don Quixote to create his seminal, life-defining classic.

For the most part, each episode operated in isolation from the other individual art installations, interactive music videos, multimedia pieces, modern dance and abstract theater. Overall, the 15 episodes failed to cohere into an interesting, dramatic reinterpretation of Don Quixote.

Some episodes such as "Incidental" and "Stealing Pears" were evocatively staged and well acted, but the texts were baffling, abstract ramblings that appeared to lack any overall coherent meaning. "Incidental" did at times appear to satirize Don Quixote's fascination with courtly love letters, romantic chivalry and courtly romance traditions. "Stealing Pears" failed to recreate clearly Don Quixote's feverish dream state, but did manage to capture his sense of honor and beauty. All in all, the lengthy adventure was at times boring, more often incomprehensible, but at times delightfully humorous and insightful.[Hicks]

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