lyrics and Music by Michael John LaChiusa
based a work by Federico GarcÃa Lorca
directed by Julia Listengarten
choreography by Earl D. Weaver
This story is much clearer as a musical, and there’s enough angst and mystery to make a decent opera. The original work by Spain’s Federico GarcÃa Lorca visits a family in a small town that’s just lost their patriarch. Life is tough in a house full of women, and all the money belongs to the attractive oldest daughter Angustias (Kalin Tenedini). The mother, Bernarda Alba (Ana Martinez Medina) is the real downer here; she plans to mourn for eight years when even her youngest daughter will be out of the running for a husband. Angustias might snag the unseen Pepe el Romano, but the youngest daughter Adela (Lexi Nieto) might have a claim on him with a much earthier basis. These other daughters may not be rich, but they’re still cute enough to get interested. That’s enough to kill her; the only thing worse than losing status is gossip. And this gossip is VERY good.
No one here comes across very favorably. Mom is stuck in the past and desperate to ignore reality. Angustias wants to take her money and Pepe and run until mom puts some buckshot in Pepe’s butt. The other girls squabble, and there’s a fairly bunt metaphor about breeding horses at the end. Lorca may have intended to show the pettiness of the bourgeoisie, or he may have intended to show the desperate straits women might find themselves in when their men are gone. But deep down, it’s a family drama about surviving and maintaining appearances, no matter the cost. It’s also a story of spite; while the daughters COULD find men they will never be good enough for mom. Bernarda would rather doom them to a spinster’s virginity than let go of her past status.
The musical numbers emphasize the plot, and I found this production much more approachable than the other recent area production. This adobe-like set enfolds the action, and the crazy mother here seems to capture the dream state the family has entered, and the crazy grandmother is the only person in their whole family capable of smiling. Tears of desperation, of shame and of loss are the lot of these women, and of their servants.