Editor’s note: This story has updated to correctly identify the role of Kevin O’Donnell in the production.

There’s a new hit in town, Circus Quixotic, produced by The Actors Gymnasium. Directed and adapted by David Catlin and Kerry Caitlin and choreographed by Sylvia Hernandez-DiStasi, artistic director of The Actors Gymnasium, the show provides an abbreviated version of Miguel de Cervantes’ famous 1605 novel, Don Quixote. 

The show relies on eight primary cast members and eight members of the Teen Ensemble to deliver a magical and athletic performance filled with a variety of circus arts intertwined with choreography. The show is appropriate for children five and older and will be at the Noyes Cultural Arts Center, 927 Noyes St., through March 26. 

Kids will be captivated watching actors that seem to bounce and fly through the air throughout the performance. Adults, too, will be captivated, but they will want to pay attention to the dialogue, which offers sly, irreverent and funny observations. 

Michael Rodriguez Cintra (right) and Micah Figueroa battle windmills in Circus Quixotic. Credit: Mathew C. Yee

The characters of Sister Sofia (Danielle Gennaoui) and Barber Nicolas (Julian Hester) are fun to watch as they move from slapstick comedic tumbles to a smoldering, sensual love scene high above the stage using aerial straps. Gennaoui also plays the roles of the Duchess and Merlin, and Hester plays the Duke and is part of ‘Others.’ 

Amanda Raquel Martinez and Michael Rodriguez Cintra in Circus Quixotic. Credit: Mathew C. Yee

The undisputed star of the performance is Michael Rodriguez Cintra in the title role of Don Quixote, the Everyman striving to become a knight and defend chivalry. Cintra is on stage and in motion for the entire show, which runs approximately one hour and 40 minutes without an intermission. Even when he portrays his character at rest, Cintra is moving in a dream state or being tossed and turned by his fellow actors. 

Cintra captures Quixote’s determination and dedication to his cause with gentleness combined with sizzling athleticism and strength. He climbs, tumbles, swings, flies, fights and rides a horse on stage using an occasional piece of apparatus or circus equipment, another actor and the power of imagination. He is a compelling storyteller with a luminescent smile.

Ryan Huemmer (from left), Danielle Gennaoui, Emerson Catlin, Julian Hester, Amanda Raquel Martinez and Michael Rodriguez Cintra perform in the show. Credit: Mathew C. Yee

Amanda Raquel Martinez, playing Sancha, Sancho Panza and Dulcinea, is a delightful and indispensable partner and foil to Cintra’s Quixote. Martinez sings and plays guitar from the lyra, a steel ring suspended above the stage used for aerial acrobatics. As his squire, Sancha is at Quixote’s beck and call while trying to keep him tethered to reality with his peasant’s common sense. Sancho is loyal to Quixote and deserving of his trust. In the end, Quixote realizes Sancho is what he has been searching for all along, “someone to count on.”

The heavy themes of the novel – such as book burning, Don Quixote’s immersion in a fantasy world of his imagination, his madness and his constantly fighting imagined enemies – are glossed over. The only scene that could disturb some viewers is when Quixote mistakes two flocks of sheep for approaching armies and attacks the sheep, with fatal results.

Fortunately, that conclusion doesn’t linger or put a damper on the rest of the show. Furry throw pillows held and tossed by the ensemble members serve as the sheep. It’s a clever and lighthearted way to handle what otherwise would have been a gruesome interaction.

The members of the Teen Ensemble are terrific in every way. They play numerous roles and don’t have much dialogue, but they command the stage and create the world we are meant to imagine. Aside from circus apparatus, the only scenery are a few well-placed props. 

Sully Ratke (costumes), Daphne Argosin (lighting) and Grover Hollway (sound) contribute mightily to the performance in their respective roles. Kevin O’Donnell composed the original music with additional music by Amanda Martinez.

Julian Hester riffed sound effects at various scenes on stage that were spot-on as well as fun to listen to. And a shout-out to Ratke for creating the faces of the donkey, the horse and the sheep, which perfectly convey the personalities of the animals and the situations they find themselves in using only black markers.

One of the earliest lines in the show is a command to the audience to “enjoy the adventure!” Evanston audiences would do well to heed that as well. Circus Quixotic is a delight. 

Circus Quixotic runs on Saturdays and Sundays through March 26 at The Actors Gymnasium, located within the Noyes Cultural Arts Center at 927 Noyes St. Ticket prices vary, but student and rush tickets are available. The performance space holds 111 seats and is handicappedaccessible. 

Wendi Kromash

Wendi Kromash is curious about everything and will write about anything. She tends to focus on one-on-one interviews with community leaders, recaps and reviews of cultural events, feature stories about...

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