The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

Step into the ‘House of Desires’ at Station Theatre

Photo courtesy of Mariana Quezada
(from left): Trent Sherman, Carissa Yau, Kyglo Webb, Bryce Bennyhoff and Ellen Magee star in “House of Desires” play at Urbna’s Station Theater.

As part of its 2023-24 season, the Station Theatre in Urbana is presenting the play “House of Desires.” The production opened Dec. 7 and will run through Dec. 17. 

“House of Desires” is a hysterical comedy of confusions centered around the romances, or desires, that arise between the five main characters. The play dates back to the 17th century and was written by Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, a nun and writer from Mexico.

Director Christiana Molldrem Harkulich spoke about the selection of this particular play. 

“I saw this play 15 years ago when I studied abroad in London and got to see the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Spanish Golden Age Season,” Molldrem said. “And I fell in love with it, and with Spanish Golden Age plays.” 

While the theater is usually known for presenting new work or cutting-edge material, Molldrem explained that during season selection, the conversation leaned toward a more classical text. Enter scene: the enigmatic Inés de la Cruz and what is considered her main work. 

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“So, I pitched this play,” Molldrem said. “And everybody just loved the idea of doing a play by a Mexican nun that is fun and that is a comedy.”

At the final dress rehearsal, the theater was in full motion. 

The theater has a story of its own. As the name suggests, it was originally a train station, then converted into a theater in 1967. In 1972, the Station Theatre established itself as an independent theater and has since spearheaded numerous plays and musicals. 

While the Station Theatre is a smaller space, this only helps showcase talent even more. 

From the first scene featuring Doña Ana (Carissa Yau) and Celia (Lexie Vogel), the theater comes to life. The intimate space coupled with the actors’ strong stage presence creates a captivating environment for the audience.  

As soon as you step into the black box theater, you’re engulfed in the world of the House of Desires. The entrance door for the audience also serves as the main door for the actors to come and go throughout the play. 

“I wanted to do it this way because I wanted all of the audience to walk into the house and be trapped in the house with all the crazy,” Molldrem said. 

Throughout the engaging performance, the audience is a fly on the wall, as the characters share their inner monologues. 

There’s very little fourth wall,” said actor Trent Sherman, who plays Don Pedro, one of the characters involved in the disorder of desires. “The audience is always in on the direction of the plot and the jokes of the character who addresses them, while the other characters on scene are not.”

The play is filled with witty dialogue and clever plot twists, reading like a telenovela. Although the text used is a translation by Catherine Boyle of the original work in Spanish, it maintains Inés de la Cruz’s playful essence.  

Vivian Krishnan, costume designer, talked about how the director approached her early on about designing the costumes for the show. 

“(Inés de la Cruz’s) got this feminist hilarity to her,” Krishnan said. “She’s super funny and strong. So I was like, ‘I want to do this show.’”

She said handling costumes from a specific period — in this case, the 17th century — presented a fun challenge.

“Historical costumes just have a strong style,” Krishnan said. “So if you have pieces that come from other eras, it’s really fun to focus on how to style things so that it can represent an idea of historical look.”

Molldrem emphasized how the Station Theatre wants to showcase more diverse works. 

Among other productions this season are “Usual Girls,” a play about the complexities of growing up as an Asian American woman, and “Falsettos,” a musical set during the 1980s AIDS crisis. 

“We’ve got a bunch of wonderful people and we’ve got a great production team and it’s just been a dream,” Molldrem said. “We’re excited to share this story with you.”


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