Theatre Mirror Reviews - "The House of Bernarda Alba"

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note: entire contents copyright 2000 by Larry Stark


"The House of Bernarda Alba"

by Federico Garcia Lorca
Translated by Emily Mann
Directed by Danielle Fauteux Jacques

Costumes and Set Designed by Loann West
Fight Director Dan Zisson
Properties by Eileen Rooney
Stage Manager Vladimir Aseneta
Assistant Stage Managers Tricia Dunphy & Eileen Rodney

Bernarda...............................................Cheryl Dedora
Angustias.................................................Hilary Fabre
Magdalena.............................................Phyllis Rittner
Amelia........................................................Julia Soyer
Martirio..........................................Marianna Bassham
Adela............................................................Cal Levis
Maria Josefa............................................Ann Leacock
Poncia...................................................Ann Carpenter
Maid........................................................Gail Gilmore
Prudencia............................................Elizabeth Kurtz
Beggar Woman.........................................Julie Hurley
Girl.......................................................Eileen Rooney
Woman 1..............................................Tasha Mignott
Woman 2.................................................Ida Rudolph
Woman 3............................................Penelope Morel
Woman in Mourning................................Loann West
Woman in Mourning............................Kimberly Luck
Woman in Mourning.............................Victoria Kurtz

The uninterrupted hour and a half experience of this play begins even before the house-lights dim. There onstage is a stern, solid, rectilinear row of eight hard chairs across the center of the stage, with a straight row of three more against each side wall, all as inflexibly upright as the mud-yellow spotless walls that nonetheless betray six jagged cracks in their gleaming surfaces. On each wall hangs a sensuously crucified Christ, the long porcelain limbs luminous as in El Greco. A huge cross veiled by a scrim dominates the back wall, while through two exits into a hallway at the back two other religious pictures hang, one a ceramic virgin, her heart and feet bright with blood. This is a recital hall in which Federico Garcia Lorca's play --- beginning with a funeral and ending in a death --- is performed like a perfectly orchestrated double string quartet, with every note perfectly and precisely placed.

In this spotless, airless "House of Bernarda Alba" the matriarch, her five daughters, their aunt, and six mourning neighbors are clothed in black. Only significantly subtle bits of lace about the collars betray individuality or reveal a peep of fevered flesh-tones. Only mad Maria Josefa, Bernarda's mother, wears wedding-white; only a rebellious youngest of five daughters briefly dons a dress of dark green; only the white of bedclothes rips the somber fabric of morality and mourning eventually assunder. For this is a play of subtleties in which the fall of an arm, the placement of a figure within a crowd, the merest hint of changed inflection is as telling as a gun-shot. There are surprises, yes, but never any accidents. Director --- no, conductor Danielle Fauteux Jacques has seen to that.

Bernarda Alba is an admired breeder of fine horses, proud of position and insistent that nosy neighbors must know nothing of incidents within her walls. For her a mere glance at a man is a sin of fornication, a funeral fan of any color but dead black an abomination deserving a beating, and courtship can be only midnight conversations between window-bars, and then only with parental approval. Is it any wonder her maids tattle and gossip, her mad mother suckles a swaddled lamb longing for more babies, her daughters squabble and swelter with suppressed sexuality, and the kicks of her stallion nearly shatter the walls when he is in heat? Lorca clearly read the searing grip religion had on sex and morals in small-town Spain, and the inflexible autocracy it forced on prideful family heads.

This TheatreZone production --- though only a handful are TheatreZone regulars --- is such a well-knit whole that it feels sinful to separate anyone for individual praise. Each fills a role, however large, that is one strand of an unbroken fabric, one voice in a symphony, and those who react to a speech are no less acting than the speaker herself. This is theater at its best, theater as it should be.

Love,
===Anon.


"The House of Bernarda Alba" (till 24 June)
THEATREzone
the Actors Workshop, 40 Boylston Street, BOSTON
1(617) 887-2336

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide

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