Review || Bernarda Alba: percussive intensity

Regina Marie Williams in BERNARDA ALBA. Photo by Dan Norman.

It’s a terrific idea: take the dense, lyrical prose of Federico Garcia Lorca‘s masterful The House Of Bernarda Alba and replace it with dense, semi-dissonant, percussive music (by Michael John LaChiusa).

And it works! As long as you don’t expect a coherent follow-able story. Because you’re not gonna get one. Bernarda Alba (at Theater Latté Da, through Feb 16) is a series of striking theatrical images and the key to enjoying this play is to give yourself over to the staging and the music and don’t expect anything well made. Everything on the Latté Da stage is first rate – the performances, the design, the staging, the music. It’s a piece about death, sex, heat. sibling rivalry, women’s place in society. Etcetera. Everything swirls together imagistically. Kudos to director Crystal Manich for assembling Bernarda Alba. It’s difficult stuff and she makes it palatable.

Performances are fab. The cast is a who’s-who of local fabulosity. Meghan Kreidler is arch and powerful as Martirio. As the teary, ever-suffering Magdalena, Nora Montañez will break your heart. Aimee K. Bryant is terrific – stage presence galore – as Poncia the servant. And Stephanie Bertumen: Wow.

And then there’s Regina Marie Williams as the in-charge matriarch. She’s powerful, very scary, and she keeps her daughters on a short leash. I completely understood the power she wields. She was, to my disappointment, absent a great deal of the time, a small criticism. I would do anything this woman tells me to do.

OK: Bernarda Alba is difficult. It makes you work. Don’t eat a rich dinner and then expect Latté Da to entertain you while you digest it. Lorca is a major hero, the poet of the Spanish 20th century. See this play and discover why.

John Olive is a writer living in Minneapolis. His book, Tell Me A Story In The Dark, about the magic of bedtime stories, has been published. John’s The Voice Of The Prairie has been performed 100 plus times and ditto Minnesota Moon and his adaptation of Sideways Stories From Wayside School. His The Summer Moon won a Kennedy Center Award For Drama. John has won fellowships from the Jerome Foundation, the Bush Foundation, the McKnight Foundation and from the National Endowment For The Arts. Please visit his informational website.


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