REVIEWSTheatre ReviewsTom Williams

Destiny of Desire

Co-production with South Coast Repertory.

By Karen Zacarias.

Directed by Jose  Luis Valenzuela.

At the Goodman Theatre, Chicago.

Telenovela soap opera or melodrama comes to life in a satirical live theatrically enticing production.

Since I didn’t read the program, Karen Zacarias’ Destiny of Desire was a surprising load to handle. I have never seen not heard about “telenovels” that are extremely popular in Latin America, Korea, and India. They are prime time soap operas characterized by fast-moving plots, personal stories against political backdrops with music and song infused story telling that prods social change. Telenovels are a blend of romance and mystery using outrageous humor, biting satire with social commentary. Rich versus poor, liberals versus conservatives played out by strong women often in rich humor in fantasy and romantic comedy.

All the above elements are present in Destiny of Desires with Latinz sensibilities,  music and songs in Spanish by the all-Latino cast. Playwright Karen Zacarias calls Destiny of Desire “an act of rebellion, of heritage, and of joy.”  She compressed a year of plot and story into a 2 hour, 30 minute live stage production.

The story revolves around an incident around 18 years ago that found two women giving birth, one poor and one rich. babies were switch so that the rich mother got the healthy girl and the poor got the unhealthy girl with the bad heart. That ignites a series of events that finds the rich gambling casino family and the poor family working for the rich family. The daughters grow up friends with the local doctor engrossed with the poor family’s mother and daughter. The  sister-nurse acts as the voice of reason here.

The production is quite theatrically interesting garnering loads of satire and raw humor. Even the set changes feature ballet-styled jumps and twirls by cast members including the older men. At key plot twists, acters breakout in song and sometimes the entire cast sings and dances a ‘show-stopper in Spanish. the plot twists are familiar from well-known musicals and films.  This melodramatic structure has a Brechtian feel but with a humorous edge including actors stepping up to a microphone to make social/political factual comments and statistics.

Basically, this show is sweet and fun as it doesn’t take itself seriously. You’ll appreciate the cast especially Esperanza America, Eveina Fernandez, Castulo Guerra and Elisa Bocanegra. You not have any trouble following the plot twists and the good or evil characters and you’ll appreciate how all the shows problems, desires and destinies come to completion at the end. Destiny of Desire is fun once you realize what is is trying to do. You’ll laugh and admire the theatrically and the biting satire and smart social commentary. The show grew on me as it took me a while to understand what I was seeing. It is a major achievement to mount a telenovela onstage in tow acts. I now know why 150 million Latinx folks love these shows.  Destiny of Desire is a unique and engaging theatrical experience worthy of an audience.


Tom Williams.

Date Reviewed: March 20, 2017.

Jeff Recommended.

For more info checkout Destiny of Desire page at

At the Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn, Chicago, IL call 312-443-3800