posted by diana bayless
The Miracle Theatre Group (525 SE Stark) is now in the middle of its run of an intimate-set play called The Labyrinth of Desire. The theatre is more known for its Spanish spoken plays, but Caridad Svich adapted a Lope de Vega play into an English-language script, and Devon Allen directs this whimsical production.
The play was a humorous and melodramatic roller coaster, with enough momentum to keep the entertainment going. But just like a roller coaster, a constant up and down with no turns can get annoying pretty quickly. Mid way through, I realized, in the choppy way the characters were thrown together, that we were in for a bumpy course before it would get interesting again. However, an eclectic mix of theatrical elements made the production unique: a European setting (think Spain and Italy), current-day props (think cell phones), and Shakespearean dialogue (complete with swooning and dramatic formality).
In a nutshell, Alejandro leaves his girl, Florela, to go off to woo Laura, who turns out to be the daughter of a wealthy Duchess and has several other suitors also vying for her affection. It's not clear how Alejandro even knows of Laura — maybe he can just smell money from a village away. Florela takes off after him, and what follows is a who's who comedy and love triangle.
Jamie M. Rea as Florela, our heroine — though not one we necessarily like – had a strong presence and fluid style. Watch her face closely; some of the best humor with her is in her facial expressions and reactions.
Laura, played by Clara Weishahn, is a sweet face with a tough role. Her character is fickle, overdramatic and dense, and not in the complex sort of way but in the blank-eyed Barbie sort of way. Whether the role is written this way or not, I'm unsure, but either way, I wanted to slap the weak brod and tell her to make her to buck up and get on with it already! I suppose every story needs a chick that needs rescuing.
It was hard for me to buy that Florela had any real feeling for Laura, or that Laura really gives a shit about anyone at all. Sadly, Laura and Florela lacked that spark when it came to their interactions, and, at one point, what should have been a climactic moment for the two lovers was more just a kiss between two girls for the sake of a play.
The male performers stood out especially, partly in due to the better script being assigned to Ricardo, Camacho, and Alejandro, but mostly due to the stand-out performances of Zero Feeney, Alexander Fox, and Dennis Kelly respectively. The interactions of these characters had a dynamic energy that made it easy to stay interested in what they had to say to one another.
Alexander Fox as Camacho, or rather, the Marquis Don Lucas, channels Martin Short's over-the-top performance as a wedding planner in Father of the Bride. The crowd's more robust laughs were heard in response to his antics, and the lean-forward energy of the audience when he was on stage made it obvious he was the crowd favorite.
Zero Feeney plays the friend who is interested in Florela from the start, and was sadly not given his due share. His character's unfortunate fate finds him being thrown with the other castaway character in the last moments, for a neat little tidy-up ending. More of this character would have been a good thing.
Great performances also came from supporting cast members Josh Spencer and Jennifer Rowe, sidekick assistants to Paris and Florela. The timing of these two, along with their superbly delivered lines, made both of these characters a hoot to watch.
The end was a bit predictable and too hurried compared to the pace of the rest of the play. Though it was refreshing to not see the happy-ending, two-by-two pairing of everyone you think should end together, everyone was partnered nonetheless. A nice dimension would have been added if a few characters were left searching for their mate.
The gender flip flops and try-to-shock moments, along with the excellent physical acting of all the actors, kept the plot going and the atmosphere fun. The play did lack complexity, but in all, it's definitely worth checking out. It's a fun, summer comedy that doesn't require much thought. You'll laugh your ass off… if your expectations aren't too high.
The play runs until May 31. Tickets are $18 for an adult / $15 student & senior. To buy tickets or get more information, go to http://www.milagro.org.
About the theatre: The Miracle Theatre Group has a small, intimate, and simple stage. There's not a bad seat in the large room, thanks to the stadium seating, and there were good lights and good blackout. A small adjoining cafÃƒÆ’© has overpriced chocolates ($.25 for one Andes mint) but an excellent deal on fresh, fair trade coffee and tea. All refreshments can be taken into the theatre. But make sure you get there before the curtain rises; there is no late seating.