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Let me just start by saying I have never read or seen any works by Federico Garcia Lorca, so I could not be called a fan of his work.  And I'm wondering if that's what you would need to really get into Arouet's production of Lorca's "The House of Bernarda Alba" adapted into English by Emily Mann.  While there were some decent performances I just found it difficult to invest in any of the characters or situations.

We open at the funeral of the second husband of Bernarda Alba (Ruth McRee) as she announces that she and her five single daughters (Colleen Carey, Devin Rodger, Lorrie Fargo, Gina Marie Russell and Sarah Milici) will go into mourning for eight years, cutting themselves off from everyone.     This of course upsets the daughters but especially due to the fact it will kill their chances of finding husbands.  But when a handsome young suitor begins to come around to court Angustias (the only daughter with any money), the mourning seems to become an afterthought.  However the handsome suitor may be courting Angustias the wealthy one, but he meets secretly with the youngest and prettiest daughter Adela.  A secret that could tear the family apart with scandal.

And that's what the show seems to be about, scandal and imposEd Morality from a very different time.  You might as well call the show "The Real Wanna Be Housewives of Spain".  And like the "Real Housewives" I found it very difficult to find any of them sympathetic.  The entire show seemed to be a lot of yelling and accusations and lacked complex characters who might have come across more likable.  In fact the only character I found myself rooting for was the crazy locked up Grandmother (superbly played by Frances Hearn).  But the interesting levels she seemed to bring to the show faded as quickly as she was ushered off stage.  And without that investment, even the final crushing blow of the show fell a little flat for me.

Directors Charles Waxburg and Roy Arauz do a fine job with the staging of the women and getting to the story but I would have liked to have seen more character development of them.  But then that could be more on Lorca or Mann than them.  The ladies do a fine job with their performances.  McRee as Bernarda is quite intimidating and stern and the daughters each take their roles and run with them but none of them seem to venture outside the individual archetypes of their assigned characters. 

I'm all for more female centric plays out there and juicy roles for women as there is a severe lack of them but even those plays need to have layers to make them interesting.  Again, I'm not a fan of Lorca's and now with this exposure I doubt I will be.  So maybe fans of his work will get much more from it than I.  But as a Lorca newbie who just wanted an evening of engaging theater, I found myself still wanting that at the end.

"The House of Bernarda Alba" from Arouet performs at the Ballard Underground through May 19th.  For tickets or information visit them online at

Photo credit: Michael Brunk, NW Lens

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