Going into the production, I already knew a little bit about the show, but I was still not expecting the whirlwind in which I was enveloped.
My professor for performance & society, Assistant Theatre Professor Leticia Robles-Moreno, Ph.D., is one of the co-directors of “The Labyrinth of Desire.” We read the script, an adaptation of Lope de Vega’s 1617 “La Prueba de los Ingenios” adapted by Caridad Svich, for class. So while I was excited to see the show, I didn’t think I would be surprised. I already knew the plot, after all (I was proven wrong).
Firstly, there was a pre-show in the Trexler Pavilion outside the Baker Theatre. “The Lovers,” a group of five actors that made up the ensemble of the play, explored the space and interacted with the audience. It was so much fun to watch them discover us and the world around them, especially considering “The Lovers” are a uniquely new Muhlenberg addition to the production. And let me tell you, I never expected to be thrilled when someone looked at me and said, “It smells like rosemary!” I was not the only one delighted and intrigued by the pre-show either. Lupe Bueno-Ventura ‘27 noted, “Watching the Lovers just be in a romantic daze outside the theater was so entrancing and made me curious as to what I was about to see.”
Then, we were beckoned into the theater, and greeted by a magical world.
‘Labyrinth’ is special to me because it is full of hope and joy– a breath of fresh air for our community in the midst of troubled times.”
The play follows Florela, played by Jules Curtis ‘25, who was scorned by their paramour Alejandro, played by Samuel Roter ‘25. He promised to marry them but backed out in order to chase after the wealthy Laura, played by Desiree Oliver ‘25. Laura’s mother, the Duchess, played by Hannah Kulbitsky ‘24, is pressuring her to marry, as she cannot get her inheritance without doing so. Florela disguises themself as Diana and uses their intellect and charms to become Laura’s secretary. But love is in the air, and Florela finds more than they were looking for in Laura’s own charms. Alongside the main story is a cast of side characters who absolutely steal the show. Bryson Brunson ‘25, who played Ricardo, Florela’s best friend, was effortlessly hilarious, as was Hannah Scarlatoiu ‘26, who played Paris, another of Laura’s suitors, and Adrián Padrón-Curet ‘26, who played Camacho, Alejandro’s right-hand man. Caitie Pagonis ‘24, who played Estacio, Paris’ right-hand, was endearing and incredibly enjoyable to watch. And Piper Ackerman ‘24, who played Finea, Laura’s best friend, was engaging and entertaining.
I was rather impressed with the work of all the principal actors. Their characters had much to grapple with emotionally, which was handled expertly by the actors. It was also great to see a nonbinary romantic lead in Florela. As a queer person myself, the unabashed queerness on display throughout the show was just beautiful.
The technical side of the show was also captivating. The lighting, which was ran by lighting designer Haley Brown, was gorgeous; at times it mimicked various pride flags which was an excellent detail. The costumes, which were under the work of costume designer Siena Zoë Allen, were also spectacular. I have work-study in the costume shop, so I already knew of their flamboyant beauty. But it was something else to see them at work on stage. They reflected both the characters’ personalities and the stage they were at in their journey (and they were so pretty. Did I mention that?).
Tori Brady ‘25 shared her thoughts on the show stating, “The creativity with the costumes as well as the actors and their portrayal of these characters and adding their own elements to the show really made it a work of art and brought it to life.”
Not only did the show break the mold of what we traditionally think of as a romantic comedy, but its rehearsal process was also nontraditional. According to Robles-Moreno’s co-director Associate Theatre Professor Troy Dwyer, the rehearsals were “very student-led… The company introduced a method in which we’d talk through each scene together, then the directing team would leave the studio and the actors would craft a full draft of the scene. Later, [Robles-Moreno] and I, along with our Assistant Director Lacey Cataleta ‘26, would receive the draft and provide a response to it, and then the actors would make decisions about how they wanted to apply that response, or not. It kept the ownership of the story, its voice, fully on the side of the people who’d actually be embodying it. And it placed the directing team as helpful outside eyes, advisors and consultants–not bosses or controllers.”
“The creativity with the costumes as well as the actors and their portrayal of these characters and adding their own elements to the show really made it a work of art and brought it to life.”Tori Brady ’25
Robles-Moreno explained why she wanted to direct this show: “‘Labyrinth’ is special to me because it is full of hope and joy– a breath of fresh air for our community in the midst of troubled times.” Furthermore, she said, “I hope people think about love and desire as conduits for joyous encounters, about how we can always be true to ourselves when we embrace what sets us in motion, and about accepting and loving people for who they are, what they do and how they want to present themselves to the world. Also, I hope audiences realize that sometimes you don’t need to ‘understand’ something in order to feel it and appreciate it. The Lovers’ pre-show is all about sensing together, and imagining a brighter world.”
The world of “The Labyrinth of Desire” was indeed bright, and I wish I could return to it again.