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Quixotic journey gets lost in the surreal

'UnPOSSESSED' is fun, but lacks insight

CAMBRIDGE -- Stacy Klein, the founder of Double Edge Theatre, is no stranger to quixotic visions. The whole idea of forming a theater in Allston and moving it out to a self-sustaining farm in Western Massachusetts is not the usual artistic model, even by avant-garde standards.

''Don Quixote," then, would seem an obvious choice for the company, now in its 23d year, and the American Repertory Theatre and CRASHarts have brought Klein and company's adaptation of the Cervantes novel, rechristened and recapitalized as ''The UnPOSSESSED," to the ART's second home at Zero Arrow Theatre.

As Klein implies in the program notes, an artist, like the good Don, imagines a world apart from conventional reality, and there is little that is conventional about the striking imagery throughout this play. Don Quixote arises from a pile of books on the floor of the stage while Sancho Panza sleeps above him, on a sheet that becomes a flying trapeze as the evening progresses. There are giants (people on rolling ladders) and tiny people (puppets), impossible dreams and foolish ones, and throughout the production, an admirable athleticism that's always fun to watch.

But for all that, there is little in the production that seems genuinely inspired or inspiring. ''The UnPOSSESSED" is a cirque du surreal, imaginatively thrusting the knight into adventures, all to no positive result for him.

There also isn't much artistic result, as the sorties seem randomly plucked from Cervantes without addressing the internal contradictions that make Don Quixote one of the great literary figures in the canon. He is both hero and fool, a man who proves that one can't live on illusions and a man who proves that one will die without them, a noble patriot and a foolish nationalist.

Carlos Uriona brings a clownish bluster to the part in his aviator outfit, lusting after Dulcinea and lashing out at his servant, but Uriona's Don doesn't have much depth. As Sancho, Matthew Glassman is the real aviator, swinging aloft in the entangled sheets, trying to escape the madness below. The rest of the cast is equally agile and graceful.

Klein -- who is responsible for conception, direction, scenario, set, and costumes -- deals in a more imagistic than linear form of theater. Don Quixote thinks that sheep are soldiers, and the audience sees the same thing, as shadows shift from one to the other. A wheel comes rolling onto the stage, and when it turns over, the actors dance deftly atop the rim. There is a Felliniesque display of electronically lighted umbrellas, and Justin Handley's score even sounds a bit like Nino Rota's music.

Still, there is no one great image, no transcendent moment that seems equal to Cervantes's prose.

That doesn't mean that this is a work without sharp ideas. The quixotic sometimes merges with the Kafkaesque, as the buffeting that Don Quixote takes recalls Karl Rossmann's in last season's ART production of ''Amerika."

But echoes of deeper meaning don't reverberate. It's not possible to fully capture a book that comes in at just under 1,000 pages in a production that clocks in at just over an hour, but a few more moments of enchantment would help enormously. That shouldn't be an impossible dream.

Ed Siegel can be reached at

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