I saw the Miracle Theatre Group's production of The Labyrinth of Desire on the first really nice day of last week—it was physically difficult to leave the blue skies and long-awaited summer heat for the cool, dark confines of the Milagro Theatre. But if I entered the theater with reluctance, two hours later I walked out into the summer night happy and full of a sense of summer's possibilities, all teased out by the Miracle's sultry little production.
The night I saw it, the theater was only about half full, which perhaps explains why it took a while for the show to hit its stride—Labyrinth is larger than life, an oversized comedy of love-induced errors that would play best to a full house, and at first the energy coming off the stage felt disproportionate to the crowd and venue. By intermission, though, an initially sluggish crowd had grown receptive and lively in their appreciation.
Labyrinth's plot is tricky to summarize, but roughly: Florela (Jamie M. Rea) is in love with Alejandro (Dennis Kelly). Alejandro wants to marry Laura (Clara Weishahn). Florela befriends Laura in an attempt to sabotage Alejandro's chances, and then Laura falls in love with Florela. Et cetera. It's the stuff of Shakespeare, with a dash of the Greeks thrown in for good measure—the characters don improbable disguises and bend gender in absurdly transparent ways, all for the sake of true love (whatever that means). Who's in love with whom isn't really important: What's important is that all of the complicated, passionate, fickle, irritating vagrancies of the heart are on display here, with a sweet bravado that highlights how ridiculous and irresistible the mating dance really is.
Some of Labyrinth's best performances come from supporting cast members: As the two servants, Josh Spencer and Jennifer Rowe revive the ol' "there are no small parts" chestnut, wringing laughs out of raised eyebrows and skeptical glances. Alexander Fox as a bike messenger-turned-personal assistant earns most of the show's laughs, and if he flubs the occasional line, he largely makes up for it with a cheerful, brassy charm.
The Miracle's ensemble here juggles camp, bawdiness, and sincere sentiment, with a sly sexiness that makes the whole thing go down easy: It's a perfect summer diversion for the long hot nights to come.