Quote of the Day: For a woman, not even our eyes are our own. Magdalena in Bernarda Alba, words and music by Michael John Lachiusa, based on the play The House of Bernarda Alba by Federico Garcia Lorca.

Cast of Bernarda Alba. Photo by Dan Norman

Bernarda Alba is a dark musical about mothers and daughters, sisters, and the oppression of women, particularly in Spain in the early 1930’s during the Spanish Civil War. The mood is oppressive and dark. The costumes are black, except for when the daughters try to break out of the period of mourning forced on them by their domineering mother. You get a sense that their every move is monitored, and they never leave the compound, their own secluded area. Their grandmother, who has dementia, is also locked up, yet comes out to talk to her granddaughters and tries to get outside. Bernarda, the overbearing matriarch (played by Regina Marie Williams) also tries to keep her own mother hidden. Williams, in this role, is fierce. She is controlling, fearful, wounded, and unyielding. Her acting and singing take your breath away.

Bernarda Alba at Theater Latte’ Da. Photo by Dan Norman

The entire cast of this dark and poignant production at Theater Latté Da, directed by Crystal Manich, features some of the Twin Cities’ finest actors, all women of diverse backgrounds. All of the women in this ensemble cast are exceptional singers and actors: Kate Beahen, Stephanie Bertumen, Aimee K. Bryant, Haley Haupt, Kim Kivens, Meghan Kreidler, Nora Montañez, Sara Ochs, and Britta Ollmann. This production is stunning, in every sense of the word. Stunning for its beauty and haunting music. Stunning for its portrayal of women. And, stunning, like a blow to the head that leaves you reeling. How could our world be so unfair and unkind to women? So much so that women extend that cruelty towards one another. 

Bernarda Alba at Theater Latte’ Da. Photo by Dan Norman

The music and rhythms are exciting, sexy, even dangerous sounding. At times, the actors use castanets, clap, or stomp their feet to create sound and rhythm. Sometimes the melodies and harmonies are so beautiful. Other times, they sound harsh, with shouts and a lifting of the voice at the end of a phrase, like crying out. It was all so remarkable and captivating. A friend saw the show the weekend before I did and wrote, “Prepare to be mesmerized.” I was. I also felt sad, and suffocated, and breathless, and moved, and grateful for the progress we’ve made in how women can live in this world and not always be owned, or controlled. 

From the small splashes of color in a handheld fan to the walls that resemble prison bars, that move and bend, to the props and stage dressings, this production is filled with symbolism. Brilliant set design by Kate Sutton-Johnson. Costumes by Alice Fredrickson. Lighting design by Mary Shabatura. The sound design, by Kevin Springer, gave me a sense of a seaside villa, and included groans, like that of a ship, waves lapping on the shore. Freedom so near, yet completely out of reach for these young women. Kelli Foster Warder set the captivating choreography, using props like white hoops of embroidery, shawls, the swish of their skirts, bold gestures and graceful movements. Jason Hansen is the Music Director.

You can see Bernarda Alba at Theater Latté Da in Minneapolis, MN through February 16, 2020. Prepare to be mesmerized.

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Journaling Prompt: What color do you wear when you want to make a statement?