Destiny of Desire arrives at the Goodman Theatre to bring its audiences a whole lot of flavor and not too much class. This play succeeds in both parodying the scandal and romance that viewers adore from televenolas, while also honoring the popular genre. If you grew up watching your abuela’s favorite novela where Ramon almost shot Carmen for her affair with the gardener….then this play will feel like a little piece of home. If you didn’t, then this is as good a time as any to get your first dose! You won’t regret stepping into Karen Zacarias’ Destiny of Desire and witnessing how worlds collide when two women decide to forge their own future.
The play is set in a fictional Mexican town the night where two girls are born in the middle of a storm. After an opportune switcharoo, the wealthy casino-owning family takes home the healthy baby, while a poor couple is left with a sickly child. Throw in a nun and a money-hungry doctor, and you’ve got yourself a plot ready to be unraveled. The play skips forward to 18 years later, where the true aftermath of a lifetime of mischievous choices finally comes to light. You can expect debauchery in the form of murder, long-coveted affairs, and a pseudo-mom brimming with evil. José Luis Valenzuela does a spectacular job at directing this mainly Latino cast and creating an atmosphere of desire, mystery, and, of course, exaggeration. The over-embellished storylines are well balanced by factual commentary: From the number of cars Hispanics purchase in America, to the reason why teens make poor decisions, these slivers of truth on the social, cultural and economic state of our world allow for the audience to factor in a dose of reality.
This cast is wildly talented, with singing, dancing and acting chops all on lock. Some standout performances include Pilar Esperanza Castillo (Esperanza America) who is tired of her wealthy lifestyle and yearns for a simple life filled with poetry and freedom. Esperanza America filled the stage with airs of passion, wit and over-the-top movements iconic in our beloved telenovelas. Accompanying America’s role is the dazzling Fabiola Castillo (Ruth Livier), her mother, whose villainous plot to be the most beautiful and affluent woman in her town drives her to some downright sinful deeds. Livier’s full body comedy was aided by Julie Weiss’ extravagant costume choices- once again paying homage to the fashion choices prominently showcased in telenovelas today.
Zacaria’s goal of bringing such a vital part of Latino culture to the stage comes to a crescendo during multiple scenes of lust, aided by cascading roses falling from the ceiling, to scenes of motherly love and devotion. Telenovelas are regarded highly across the world, especially by the Latino demographic, and I for one can attest that this play does the genre and its viewers proud.
I left the Goodman with a couple of good laughs, and some immediate conversation topics. Overall an entertaining night at the theatre. However, if you’re not into over-the-top productions with little left to the imagination, I wouldn’t recommend this play. But if you’re ready for a night filled with laughs, then head on over to the Goodman where Destiny of Desire is ready to dazzle audiences until April 16.
Destiny of Desire is running through April 16 at the Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn St. Tickets range from $20-$75.