Theatre review: Available Light's "Don Quixote" is a funny, fantastical wonder

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Front and center on the performing space of the Van Fleet Theatre of the Columbus Performing Arts Center stretches a wooden frame filled with gravel. Through the course of Available Light Theatre’s production of Jennifer Schlueter’s “Don Quixote,” six actors representing well over twice as many characters crunch through that gravel. Many of those characters are pilgrims hiking the present-day Camino de Santiago, the route through northern Spain followed by merchants, penitents and other travelers since Roman times.

The 400-year-old novel “Don Quixote” by Míguel de Cervantes famously takes place in and around Spain’s southeastern area of La Mancha. But in Schlueter’s “radical adaptation,” those disparate times and places collide to form a funny, fluid and fantastical new work that requires no prior knowledge of Cervantes or his creation.

Isabel, the play’s central character, departs on her private pilgrimage along the Camino for reasons she never quite articulates. Through her feet, we relish the primal joys of simply walking and the blisters that result. Through her eyes, we witness the dramas of her fellow travelers and the wondrous sites. Acacia Leigh Duncan gives Isabel life, as well as enough room for us to project our own journeys onto.

Kim Garrison Hopcraft and Drew Eberly portray a long-married couple, Catalina and Miguel, who traverse some rough terrain together both literally and figuratively. Elena Perantoni and David Glover are Luscinda and Cardenio, a young on-again-off-again couple. Alan Woods appears late in the play as Isabel’s increasingly disoriented elderly father, who had introduced her to “Quixote” as a child.

Most delightfully, Eberly and Perantoni wander in and out as Sancho Panza, Quixote’s loyal squire, and Rocinante, Quixote’s horse. Watching Perantoni pass between human and equine is priceless.

Schlueter, director Matt Slaybaugh, and Available Light have created a fiction, a lie, and a wandering wonder.

Columbus Performing Arts Center, Van Fleet Theatre

Through April 12

549 Franklin Ave., Downtown