Fri, May 28, 2010 - Page 13 News List

THEATER : A female side to Cervantes?

‘Dulcinea’s Lament’ examines history, philosophy and feminism through the fictional character of Dulcinea from Cervantes’ famous novel ‘Don Quixote’

By Noah Buchan  /  STAFF REPORTER

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The National Theater Concert Hall opens this year’s International Theater Festival in satirical style with Dulcinea’s Lament, a multimedia performance by Montreal-based theater group Dulcinea Langfelder & Co. It begins Thursday at 7:30pm.

Dulcinea Langfelder, the show’s principle actor and writer, said in an e-mail exchange that the work is based on the female character who is referred to but never appears in Cervantes’ novel Don Quixote.

“I haven’t come across many Dulcineas in my life, and most of them have been pet dogs,” wrote Langfelder, whose last Taipei performance, the 1996 Portrait of a Woman with Suitcase, received rave reviews. She added that the name Dulcinea is “charged with romantic and grandiose connotations” — nuances that she examines through wordplay, much like Cervantes’ novel.

“The show is based on associations one can make with this famous (and famously misunderstood) name,” she said. Dulcinea is often portrayed as a prostitute.

And the lament?

“Since Dulcinea del Toboso never speaks in Cervantes’ novel, I wanted to give her a voice. And since she is Don Quixote’s ‘raison d’etre’ — his reason for attempting to save the world — she laments his failure to do so. Today’s ‘Post 9-11’ world is woefully reminiscent of the time of the crusades. The discovery of a ‘New World,’ with all its hope for something better, has led to yet another superpower ... yet more war, after war, after war,” she said.

Audiences shouldn’t be put off by the seriousness of the themes — which she uses to examine the roles of men and women throughout history — as Langfelder handles them with considerable doses of satire.

Mythology, philosophy and literature are all touched upon through music, dance, monologue and video images projected on to several moveable screens. The action never wavers thanks to the snappy rhythm of the movement and the spoken lines, which one reviewer said, “border on stand-up comedy.”

But much of the narrative explores feminism and the feminine.

“I believe that Cervantes imagined Dulcinea to represent the feminine side of human spirituality,” she said. “The word, ‘devil,’ comes from ‘devi’: the Sanskrit word for ‘Goddess.’ Dulcinea is the Feminine: a damsel in distress worth fighting for.”

Langfelder also examines another timeless theme in the performance: physical intimacy and its taboos.

“How did sex become such a ‘bad’, forbidden thing? Why do we have pornography? Why did we pervert sex from an essential, natural thing to something so threatening? Dulcinea represents (among other things) ‘good’ sex!,’” she said.

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