Monday, September 27, 2021

The Greater Labyrinth

Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz was one of the more interesting writers of the Hispanic Golden Age in the 17th century, and I was greatly pleased to learn that Red Bull Theater would be presenting an online benefit reading of her play Love is the Greater Labyrinth.

The livestream premiere was tonight, but if you missed it, a recording of the reading is still available for a limited time. Sor Juana originally wrote the play for the viceregal court of "New Spain" which is now Mexico. She actually co-wrote it with a priest, Juan de Guevara.

Though a collaboration between a nun and a priest, the play is concerned with romantic and sexual issues. It takes the story of Theseus and the Minotaur as a jumping off point to explore not the hero's journey into the frightening labyrinth on Crete, but his journey into the greater labyrinth of love, which can seem even more dangerous and confusing.

Theseus, or Teseo as he is called in the play, is set to be sacrificed to the Minotaur as a tribute from Athens to the King of Crete, Minos. Both of Minos's daughters, Ariadna and Fedra, fall in love with him. Teseo is in love with Fedra, but it is Ariadna who provides him with a thread that allows him to track his way through the labyrinth. Comic relief is added by Teseo's servant, Tuna, who was my favorite part of the play.

In Greek mythology, Theseus abandoned the Cretan princess Ariadne on the island of Naxos, where she met the god Dionysus or Bacchus and subsequently married him. Love is the Greater Labyrinth transforms this deity into Baco, a prince of Thebes, who is apparently fond of wine, but not actually the god of it. Everyone comes together for a masked ball, and there are plenty of opportunities for mistaken identities and wacky antics.

This virtual presentation is the debut of a new translation by the collective Diversifying the Classics. It deserves to be published, and I hope it will be available soon to theaters and students of drama alike.