Matriarch Bernarda Alba runs a tight ship in Federico Garcia Lorca’s The House of Bernarda Alba as she seeks to preserve her five daughters for marriages that suit her landed-gentry bloodline — though, as becomes clear as we watch that control unravel, no one can contain the passions of such willful women. Even the seclusion of Bernarda’s villa cannot restrict the daughters from contact with the outside world (including field workers, ogled through iron-barred windows). Though a household drama, Lorca’s exploration of desire and rebellion involves oppression of any stripe.
The Classic Theatre presents a solid production of Lorca’s play with a cast that unites as a cohesive ensemble representing (paradoxically) complete dysfunction. Each daughter responds differently to Bernarda’s threats, from the quiet, sneaky resolve of Angustias (Gypsy Pantoja) to the open defiance of Adela (Krystal Kohler). Jodi Karjala’s costumes neatly suit the nature of each character, bringing variety through texture to a show mostly gowned in mourning attire.
While Magda Porter does good work as Maria Josefa — a particularly unstable character — Marisa Varela’s characterization of La Poncia is especially dynamic for its stunning depiction of a talkative peasant woman who knows the most intimate details of all within the Alba house.
Heidi Mendez creates an imposing Bernarda that borders on the tyrannical, but doesn’t quite strike fear into the hearts of the daughters. And while director José Rubén De León stages some well-crafted moments of near-physical violence that prove the dangers of defying Bernarda’s power, blocking in the day-to-day moments leaves Bernarda too approachable, diminishing the impact of the daughters’ defiance. The set and lighting design (Mary Evans and Felice Garcia) transports the audience to a romanticized Spanish villa. Frederica Kushner’s sound design tastefully augments this mood, but could do more in key moments (such as when workers parade down the street, delighting those locked in a house that is more convent than home).
The ending tableau, beautifully designed, is nothing short of fantastic. The Classic Theatre’s production of a power struggle as entertainment plays well. $10-25, Through Oct 30, Fri, Sat 8pm, Sun 3pm, #108 Blue Star Arts Complex, (210) 589-8450, classictheatre.org.
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