The play is about brother and sister Don Pedro and Dona Ana and their romantic entanglements. Don Pedro loves Dona Leonor who loves Don Carlos, who is fancied by Dona Ana but betrothed to Don Juan. The plot includes mistaken identities and wily servants.
The life of Sor Juana Inés de La Cruz was an unusual one, certainly for her time. She was born Juana Inés de Asbaje y Ramírez de Santillana in 1648 in San Miguel Nepantla, a village south of Mexico City. Taught to read and write by her grandfather, she was sent to the Spanish royal court in Mexico City in 1664 and became a lady-in-waiting to the Vicereine and a court favorite. In 1669, she entered the Convent of the Order of St. Jerome, an order known for its liberality. While there, she held intellectual salons and wrote copiously: carols, poems and secular and sacramental plays.
When she was criticized by the archbishop of Mexico, she defended herself with the letter, "Reply to Sor Philotea," which her supporter, the Bishop of Pedula, published without her permission. The letter defended women's rights to an education and argued how society would benefit from a learned female population. "Oh, how much harm would be avoided in our country if older women were as learned as Laeta and knew how to teach in the way Saint Paul and my Father Saint Jerome direct!," she wrote. The archbishop didn't agree and confiscated her books, musical instruments, and scientific equipment. She wrote no more after 1693 and died in 1695.
Directed by Peter Dobbins, the production features Michael Cajigao, Amanda Cronk, Michael Daly, Christopher Kale Jones, Jamil Mena, Caitlin Mulhern, Jessica Myhr, Joshua Vasquez and Gabriel Vaughn, with set by Todd Edward Ivins, costumes by Erin Murphy and lighting by Michael Abrams.
Catherine Boyle wrote the translation of House of Desires for the Royal Shakespeare Company. Tickets are $19. Call (212) 868-4444.