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Theater: The House Of Bernarda Alba
by Mary Shen Barnidge
2005-10-12

This article shared 3344 times since Wed Oct 12, 2005
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Playwright: Federico García-Lorca, translation by Karin Coonrod & Nilo Cruz

At: Greasy Joan And Company at Victory Gardens, 2259 N. Lincoln Ave.

Phone: ( 773 ) 871-3000; $25

Runs through: Oct. 30

A perennial gay AND het male fantasy—in literature, anyway—is that of a female community thrown into turmoil by exposure to a Real Man. Federico García-Lorca's lyrical drama presents us with not one, but THREE generations of women so hormonally frustrated that it requires only one lone man drawing nigh to upset the order imposed—with draconian, and ultimately fatal, severity—by the widow Bernarda on her senile mother and five restless daughters.

In a culture where procreation within holy matrimony is the sole acceptable evidence of proper citizenship, a sorority of celibates represents a crime against nature. For that matter, so do men who shrink from the formidable specter of unbridled fecundity—Poncia, the earthy housekeeper, sneers at her late spouse's continence and boasts of inflicting abuse on him. The oldest and sickliest of the young ladies is the spawn of Señora Bernarda's likewise docile first husband, while the lusty youngest was sired by the recently deceased skirt-chasing patriarch. And lest we STILL don't get it, at one point, our unsuspecting matron orders the grooms to release the stallion kicking at the stable door, but to lock up the mares.

Under Julieanne Ehre's direction, this Greasy Joan production embraces Lorca's Dionysic sensibilities with gusto: Scott Neale's set is relentlessly symmetric as a medieval fresco, while Alison Heryer's quasi-monastic gowns for the daughters are structured on eccentric lines ( suggesting the crippling physical and mental distortions hinted at in the text ) . Music wafting from the street sets the lonely damsels and their duenna to dancing ( or stroking the wall, at least ) . Cat-spats are staged in the manner of 16th-century duels, one such confrontation ending in silence broken only by a chorus of heavy breathing.

Lorca knew well the consequences of passions imprisoned by society's rigid strictures. And this new translation by Karin Coonrod and Nilo Cruz—the latter, as evidenced by his Pulitzer-winning Anna In The Tropics, neither a stranger to sensual yearnings in sultry climes—likewise revels in imagery so vivid that we can almost, ourselves, feel the Andalusian heat and the melancholy torpor of solitary women.


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