By Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, in a new translation by Diversifying the Classics UCLA
Directed by Leyma López
Off Off Broadway, Streamed Play
Runs through 10.27.21
Available at Repertorio Español
by Emily Cordes on 9.22.21
Clockwise from top left: Jerry Soto, Maria Fontanals, Zulema Clares, & Luis Carlos de la Lombana in Amor Es Más Laberinto. Photo by Tané Martínez.
BOTTOM LINE: Live-streamed and newly-translated, this Zoom version of a Spanish classic retains its iconic wit and energy.
An icon of the Spanish Baroque period, the work of Mexican scholar, dramatist, poet and nun Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz endures for both its stylistic virtuosity and shrewd social insight. True to its mission of furthering the reach of the Spanish-language and Latinx theatrical canon, Repertorio Español now brings Sor Juana’s work into the modern digital space, partnering with Red Bull Theater and UCLA’s Diversifying the Classics program to offer a new English translation of Sor Juana’s 17th-century play Amor Es Más Laberinto (“Love Is The Greater Labyrinth”). Recorded on Zoom, performed in Spanish with English subtitles, and available via live-stream on Repertorio’s web, Facebook, and YouTube pages, the play blends Classical mythology and courtly intrigue in an adventurous, profound, and clever look at love and human folly.
Loosely based on the Greco-Roman tale of Theseus and the Minotaur, Amor begins in the ancient kingdom of Crete amidst a backdrop of romance and violence. As princesses Ariadna (Zulema Clares) and Fedra (Maria Fontanals) ponder the mysteries of love and dodge unwanted male advances, their father King Minos (Gerardo Gudiño) seeks vengeance for his son’s murder by sending Prince Teseo (Luis Carlos de la Lombana) of Athens to die at the hands of the monstrous, labryinth-bound Minotaur.
Smitten with the noble youth, Ariadna and Fedra wrestle with duty and jealousy as both intercede to help Teseo survive. The plot thickens when Bacco (Jerry Soto) and Lidoro (Erick González), Ariadna and Fedra’s respective suitors, learn of the sisters’ plans, each misinterpreting the intrigue as rivalry for their affections and vowing revenge on one another. Meanwhile, further conflict brews as the Athenian ambassador Licas (Fernando Gazzaniga) rallies his people to invade Crete and end Minos' tyranny.
Escaping the labyrinth, Teseo finds himself in a more perplexing trap as he struggles to bridge his love for Fedra with his indebtedness to Ariadna for saving his life. Caught between the two women, and egged on by his bawdy servant Atún (Sandor Juan), a royal masquerade gives Teseo the opportunity to explore these desires when both women’s maids (Jessica Fiori and Valeria Llaneza) offer him chances to meet, disguised, with their mistresses. As costumed flirtation, nighttime rendezvous, and mistaken identities lead to further acts of discord and aggression, all the play’s characters must navigate inner and outer mazes as they scramble to make sense of their circumstances and follow their hearts.
Despite the constraints of a digital platform, the ensemble’s chemistry and committed performances retain the text’s wit and energy throughout. As savvy heroines, hot-headed courtiers, and comical servants, the cast nicely embodies Sor Juana’s look into gender dynamics, social mores, the threat of unchecked power, and the endless fight between reason and passion. Director Leyma López gamely employs Zoom’s visual capabilities to mimic the twisting labyrinth walls, lively parties, and shadowy corridors the characters traverse. That said, mild discrepancies between Zoom setups, as well as actors’ varying eye lines, costumes, and at-home camera arrangements, occasionally detract from the performance (this is most evident in Minos’ scenes, which place an onstage, fully-costumed king against others’ blank walls and simple all-black attire). The challenges of Zoom shows notwithstanding, a bit more consistency would have achieved the seamlessness for which digital plays now strive.
Through this freshly-translated digital production, Repertorio Español honors Sor Juana’s legacy by combating the temporal, logistic, and linguistic hurdles that might bar access to her work. As such, Amor Es Más Laberinto stands as both a clever and appealing play and a testament to the importance of female Latinx voices in the theatrical canon. As Sor Juana shows us, humans in any era may trap ourselves in labyrinths of doubt, anger, fear, or deception. Yet, she maintains, through love and forgiveness we may also find our way out.
(Amor Es Más Laberinto was recorded live on Zoom and plays via live-stream through October 27, 2021. The running time is 1 hour 50 minutes with no intermission. Tickets are free. For more information, visit repertorio.nyc).
Amor Es Más Laberinto is written by Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz and translated by the Diversifying the Classics UCLA Working Group. Directed by Leyma López. Presented by Repertorio Español, in association with Red Bull Theater & Diversifying the Classics UCLA.
The cast is Gerardo Gudiño, Zulema Clares, Maria Fontanals, Luis Carlos de la Lombana, Sandor Juan, Jerry Soto, Mario Mattei, Erick González, Cesar Augusto Cova, Fernando Gazzaniga, Jessica Fiori, and Valeria Llaneza.