Anyone who has ever watched ( or perhaps become addicted to) television “Soap Operas” is aware that they can be very captivating. The Spanish versions, that one might see on Telemundo or another of the Spanish language stations, are even more “out there”, and of course, much sexier. The “soap” itself is about love, sex, incest and many other tawdry matters. The Spanish language Novelas are much more intriguing, with greater amounts of cleavage and sexual overtones than the American version ( I hear other countries also have their own patters) we are used to. Thus, watching “Destiny of Desire”, Karen Zacarias’ parody of the infamous Telenovelas of Mexico is two plus hours of pure fun.
The play, finely directed by Jose Luis Valenzuela, is indeed a laugh-filled satirical look at these stories that are filled with twists and turns that keep you continuing to view, day after day, year after year. In “Destiny of Desire”, the story takes place in an abandoned theater in Chicago. They are doing the show on TV and it is about a town in Mexico, Bellarica, a prosperous desert town that has casinos, parks, restaurants and great wealth. The wealthy reside in or near the Z’ocalo (center of town), the poor in the outskirts. (sort of like Lincoln Park and the Gold Coast versus, Uptown or the South Side).
Our play begins with two women arriving at the hospital on the same evening to give birth. One woman is rich , Fabiola Castillo (the lovely and very sexy Ruth Livier) who is married to the wealth casino owner Armando ( well- played by Castulo Guerra). The other, a farmer, Ernesto del Rio (deftly handled by Mauricio Mendoza) and his wife, a housekeeper, Hortencia (solidly played by Elisa Bocanegra). The doctor in charge on this stormy night, one Dr. Diego Mendoza ( played to perfection by Chicago favorite Ricardo Gutierrez) shows that money is far more important than health. It turns out that the del Rio baby, a girl, is healthy and hale, while the Castillo girl has a weak heart. The Doctor switches the girls so that the wealthy family has the healthy child, saying the other family will have another one in a year or so anyway.
We then go forward 18 years. The girls are now reaching adulthood. Victorio Maria del Rio ( the lovely Ella Saldana North) who only wants to be happy and become a heart doctor to save poor people, has made it through her heart problems over the years. Her mother is now the housekeeper for the Castillo family. Pilar Esperanza Castillo (the very sexy Esperanza America) is about to be honored at a “coming out ball” that her father is hosting for her. Along the way, the girls meet young men, which I will get into a bit later. Side note: the good Doctor does not heal or cure the lovely Victoria Maria, as he is in love with Hortencia, and the more time he spends with the daughter, the more opportunities to be with the mother. By the way, the doctor has a son, Diego ( a finely tuned comic touch by Fidel Gomez) who he is estranged from, but who also is a doctor, and it is his desire to help the poor people by offering them free health. Another side note: this may be a hint to what is yet to come. After all, this is a “soap”! Lots of crazy situations make for great comedy. The girls become bosom buddies and once again as the old saying goes, “girls will be girls” (don’t want to spoil the fun), so I will leave it atthat!
There is also a son for Armando, from his first wife (who we learn more about in the second act) -spoiler alert! His name is Sebastian (deftly handled by Eduardo Enrikez) and then we sprinkle in a nun, Sister Sonia (Evelina Fernandez is dynamite, and holds a few surprises of her own). the last performer in this comedic production is Rosino Serrano, the musical director composer and the piano player. Yes, this is a story with music (not a musical), but the music, both in English and Spanish is beautiful and helps to convey the messages of the story. There are many little side stories in this saga. In fact, many scenes end with a sort of black-out where a special fact is conveyed to the audience. I am not sure if they are all real, but they sure do have an impact at the time
Most of the actors do play more than one role, and there are lots of set changes that are done by the cast, but done as a sort of dance (choreographer Robert Barry Fleming has done a superb job) that is indeed very “camp”! Francois-Pierre Couture’s set is amazingly simple, yet very effective. The costumes by Julie Weiss are so VERY the typical Telenovela and the lighting by Pablo Santiago perfect. There were a few sound problems on opening night, but they were handled swiftly by John Zalewski and his able staff. This is a co-production with South Coast Repertory in Costa Mesa, California, and I am glad that The Goodman decided to be adventurous and take on this amazing theatrical experience.
By the way, I am not sure if some of the bits were ad-lib versus script, but there were a number of one liners that related to the things going on today (and I mean TODAY!). This is a true theatrical experience for all theater-goers. Yes, it is nice to see a comedic look at a tradition that defies ethnicity, the “soap”, and this one is a sheer delight! “Destiny of Desire” will continue at The Goodman Theatre (Albert, the larger of the two venues) thru April 16th ,with performances as follows:
Thursdays 2 and 7:30 p.m.
Fridays 8 p.m.
Saturdays 2 and 8 p.m.
Sundays 2 and 7:30 p.m. ( on 4/9 no evening performance)
Running time two hours 30 minutes with an intermission
Tickets range from $20-$75 and can be purchased at the box office located at The Goodman Theatre 170 N. Dearborn Street, by calling 312-443-3800 or online at http://www.GoodmanTheatre.orgwhere you can also learn about discounted student rates, dinner packages, and discounted parking.
There are also some accessibility performances for those who need special access:
touch-tour April 8th
Audio described on the 8th at 2 p.m
ASL interpreted on April 12th
open-caption on April 15th 7:30 p.m.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “Destiny of Desire”