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Representing the unrepresentable: a one-man retelling of Cervantes’s Entremeses

Faculty Advisor




Spanish classical theater, fake news

Abstract (summary)

When Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra published his Ocho comedias y ocho entremeses nuevos, nunca representados in 1615, he could not have imagined what a twenty-first-century Mexican theater company would be able to create out of his short interludes. Even with the great mind that brought us the Quijote, it would have been beyond his wildest dreams to see a one-man adaptation of three of his pieces2 – El viejo celoso, El retablo de las maravillas, and La cueva de Salamanca – with every character played by a single Merolico, the archetype of a traveling salesman in Mexico.3 And yet, EFE TRES Teatro, a young company based in Mexico City and founded in 2012, has created a raucous romp in El merolico, moving through these entremeses, using only a few props and some minor costume changes, so that the actor, in this case Fernando Villa Proal, can play several characters at once. The paradoxical brilliance of this company is that they can take the most minimalist of ideas and create a spectacularly intricate performance, one that would make Cervantes himself proud. As will be discussed below, the company is able to take pieces that are supposedly “unrepresentable” and with their magical touch, turn them into a commentary on the very elements that fascinated Cervantes and continue to captivate those of us who work on Spanish classical theater even today: metatheatricality; the blurred lines between authorship and character; and the thin veil between reality and fiction. Although it is not the company’s desire to be prescriptive in their adaptations, ultimately the spectator is confronted with some of the most troubling questions of our time, namely the rampant dissemination of “fake news” via social media and the difficulty to distinguish between truth and lies.

Publication Information

Cowling, Erin. “Representing the Unrepresentable: A One-Man Retelling of Cervantes’s Entremeses.” eHumanista/Cervantes, 8, 2020, 132-44.



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Attribution (CC BY)