GALA Hispanic Theatre: ‘In Spite of Love’ simply delightful

Diana (Natalia Miranda-Guzmán) is the sort who person who threatens suicide if she has to get married. The Prince of Bearne (Carlos Castillo) attempts to win her affection. Photo by Lonnie Tague.

For the royal wedding crazed and even the “Down With Love” type GALA Hispanic Theatre in Washington, D.C., has a story for you. A contemptuous princess with three handsome suitors holds court in the season opener, “El desdén con el desdén”  or “In Spite of Love.”

Spanish playwright Agustín Moreto y Cabaña’s  light-hearted romantic comedy about 17th century aristocrats tells a familiar story. You will likely guess the ending before act one ends, but that doesn’t take away from the play’s humor.

A stubborn, hot-tempered drama queen, Princess Diana (GALA newcomer Natalia Miranda-Guzmán) will tell anyone within earshot that she has zero interest in love. To the dismay of her family and friends, she would rather slit her wrists rather than marry. Of course, this only strengthens her suitors’ resolve.

Diana’s (Natalia Miranda-Guzmán) suitors, Count Carlos (Ignacio García-Bustelo) in GALA Hispanic Theatre’s season opener, “El desdén con el desdén” or “In Spite of Love.” (Photo by Stan Weinstein)

While the men strategize how to win her affection, Diana devises a plan to remain single despite attempts by her most calculating suitor, Carlos the Count of Urgel (fellow GALA newcomer Ignacio García-Bustelo). Carlos opts for the unusual strategy of feigning disinterest in Diana. He informs her that he not only refuses to love, he also refuses to be loved. This news sets Diana on a mission.

Miranda-Guzmán and García-Bustelo are a well-matched professional pair. But Antonio Vargas’s Polilla, Carlos’s servant, stands out. His quips and gestures, beginning with his impersonation of Diana in the first act, remain consistently funny through to the play’s end.

While the original script calls for a three-part performance, director Hugo Medrano stages the play in two acts, which works well for GALA’s production. Amusing moments in the play include the act one colored ribbon game during the city’s carnival. Perhaps the play’s best scene occurs in act two, when Diana attempts to seduce Carlos with a song. No spoiler alerts here, suffice it to say it is delightful.

Set in a royal palace in 1654 Barcelona, the play has a low-key set, with few props, allowing the actors to make full use of the stage. Perhaps the only extravagance is the bathtub in act one. It would not be out of place in a higher-end home on

A note to non-Spanish speakers visiting GALA for the first time, the play is performed in Spanish with English subtitles. Switching between the subtitles screen and the stage takes some getting used to, but you will adjustment before the first act ends.

“El desdén con el desdén” is playing at GALA Hispanic Theatre in Washington, D.C., through Oct. 7. Performances are Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 3 p.m. Tickets start at $36. For more  information call 800-494-8497.