This stunning production of Garcia Lorca's searing play about class, caste, and oppression is a worthy multicultural project, reflecting as it does New York's polyglot population. Thus, populating the all-female cast, we have Asian-American women as Spanish daughters on a New York stage -- a multicultural, multiracial triumph.
Under the direction of Chay Yew, who also adapted the piece, the show is a stark, stylized rendition of the story -- as much dance as drama. The bare stage is relieved only by straight-back chairs and an overhanging flowering branch, calling to mind a Japanese print. The performers are clothed in severe black: high-necked shirts and long skirts, with unshod feet. The entire cast is a flawless ensemble of featured performers backed by a Greek chorus.
The House of Bernarda Alba is the story of a merciless, upper-class Spanish matron and her five daughters. At her husband's death, Bernarda Alba declares an eight-year mourning period, locking her daughters behind doors, protecting them from the lower-class village louts. She is concerned, above all, with appearances and her status in the community. "I don't care if she throws herself in," she says at one point, referring to a daughter threatening suicide by drowning. "I care if the neighbors see her from the window." Nevertheless, she betroths her oldest daughter, Angustias, to the villager Pepe, whom her youngest daughter, Adela, loves. The consequences, ultimately, are tragic.
Though essentially an ensemble piece, individual performances are noteworthy -- namely Ching Valdes-Aran in the title role and Natsuko Ohama as the betrothed Angustias. While Valdes-Aran plays a Bernarda chiseled of stone, Ohama is by contrast an Angustias with a range of emotions. There are also vivid performances from Kati Kuroda as Poncia, the maidservant, and Ali Ahn, Carmen M. Herlihy, Sue Jean Kim, and Maile Holck as the other daughters.
In all, this is a fine interpretation of Lorca's memorable classic.
Presented by the National Asian American Theatre Company as part of the National Asian American Theater Festival at the Nagelberg Theatre at Baruch Performing Arts Center,
55 Lexington Ave., NYC.
June 4 - 23. Mon. - Fri., 7 p.m.; Sat., 3 and 7 p.m. (No performance Mon., June 11.)
(212) 279-4200 or www.ticketcentral.com.