Women are at the center, and most of the edges, of the Point Park University Conservatory Theatre Co.’s production of The House of Bernarda Alba, a classic portrayal of the psychological laceration of women by women. Of course, it was written by a man: Federico García Lorca, in 1936 (shortly before his death in the Spanish Civil War), though La casa de Bernarda Alba did not reach the stage until 1945.
Using the 1987 Michael Dewell/Carmen Zapata translation, director Monica Payne creates a series of searing tableaux that accentuate the musicality of the text, rather than plot or character. Indeed, there is much singing and choreographed movement, taking good advantage of the school’s musical-theater strength. The multimedia spectacle makes grand use of sight and sound, but with minimal color: Just like the story itself, this House is mostly black and white.
And what a stark story. The lady of the title is a recent widow with five grown daughters whom she dominates and abuses. Sexual repression and tension overfloweth. But mama obsesses about the wealthy family’s reputation. Think Three Sisters meets Marnie’s mother. This mom (chillingly played by junior Alexandra Williams in special footwear) literally looms over everybody, with a mean streak symbolized in striped hair a la Lily Munster. Bernarda’s foil is her own mother (fellow junior Ashley Figueroa, who would certainly chew the curtains, if there were any), a most colorful character in both the dramatic and costume meanings.
The daughters seem to blend together, with no effort to make Elena Lazaro look middle-aged as Angustias, or Michelle Iglesias remotely resemble the deformed Martirio. Fine by me. Aenya Ulke appropriately fires up the nonconforming young Adela, her sensuality accented with a bright red rose. Also notable in the all-female cast are Saige Smith, as the sharp-tongued maid Poncia, and Krystal Rivera and Agatha Walgreen, as respective daughters, Amelia and Magdalena. A supporting black-clad chorus expands the music and movement.
This is the last season for the Pittsburgh Playhouse: At 84, it is older than The House of Bernarda Alba, thus suitably hosting a rendezvous of two classics.