"Destiny of Desire" Review- A Campy Play on Telenovelas at The Goodman Theatre

“Destiny of Desire”, by Karen Zacarias, currently in production at The Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn, through April 16th is an uproariously funny take on the phenomena of “telenovelas”. This is a type of limited- run serial drama originally produced in Latin America that has become popular in many other global television networks.  It has been noted “The medium has been used frequently by authorities in various countries to transmit sociocultural messages by incorporating them into storylines”.  Here, the comedy/drama is spun with a strong cast of Hispanic actors who also sing, dance, portray techs making announcements about changing scenes, move props and serve as sideline announcers about American and Hispanic social issues.

The sisters switch costumes; Esperanza America and Ella Saldana North in "Destiny of Desire"


Much of the plot is crazy/silly and filled with wildly dramatic moments, with many genre specific twists and turns, a lot of proclaimed romantic love and “illicit” sex, amid a cast of characters so outrageously exaggerated they could only exemplify soap opera at it’s most fecund. Directed by Jose Luis Valenzuela, this enjoyable and often acerbic romp through telenovela archetypes features complex set design by Francois-Pierre Couture, fun and sexy costumes by Julie Weiss, campy choreography by Robert Barry Fleming and appropriately colorful lighting by Pablo Santiago. Original music by Rosino Serrano was rich and many-layered. The actors all sang and danced- some stiffly, some splendidly- but it all worked.


The real daughter enters her true parents home; Ella Saldana North, Esperanza America, Ruth Livier and Castulo Guerra in "Destiny of Desire"

There is an intriguing beginning to the play as the audience is invited into the lives of the performers. They emerge into an abandoned theater in Chicago, find the piano, arrange the chairs, mingle and settle in their seats. They warm up and get dressed. There are cameras, lights and scripts strewn about. Then the nun charachter announces, "It is a rainy and stormy night...here...at the hospital". The action ensues and we are supposedly taken to a prosperous desert town- the nonexistent Bellarica, Mexico-a venue filled with casinos and a full range of income levels in the populace. Other entertaining signature stagy moves include a halt/rewind/fast forwarding of action. 


The babies are about to be switched; Ruth Livier, Ricardo Gutierrez and Evelina Fernandez in "Destiny of Desire"

Two girls are switched at birth. The healthy daughter, (Esperanza America) of a poor couple (Elisa Bocanegra and Mauricio Mendoza) is substituted by a treacherous doctor (Ricardo Gutierrez) and complaisant nun (Evelina Fernandez) for the sickly daughter (Ella Saldana North) of a wealthy and intolerant casino owner (Castulo Guerra) and his social-climbing wife (Ruth Livier). The doctor’s son (Fidel Gomez) and the rich man’s son (Eduardo Enrikez) figure in the action as medical resuscitator/lovers. The story follows the unraveling of the secret of the 2 girls as well as revealing many other hidden surprises in the intertwined lives of all, including the introduction of certain previously “taboo” themes.

The play within the play; Ruth Livier and Fidel Gomez in "Destiny of Desire"

While the tale as told was sublimely ridiculous, the emotional content was put over as very real and deeply felt. Combined with the repeated asides and verbalized “statistics”, the whole presented a montage of the types of messages which are variously presented to the everyday viewers of telenovelas. The audience roared all through the presentation. It’s a very clever work of  skillful and worthwhile social commentary as well as a highly recommended piece of entertainment.

A scorned daughter in pain; "Esperanza America in "Destiny of Desire"


The Goodman Theater has an admirably strong commitment to promoting diversity, access and inclusion in the arts and specifically to “Championing Latinx voices”.


For information and tickets to all the great shows at The Goodman Theatre, go to the GoodmanTheatre website


All photos by Liz Lauren



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