A cast of 20 Haines women hope to transport audiences to 1930’s Spain this weekend. ‘The House of Bernarda Alba’ from playwright Federico Garcia Lorca takes the Chilkat Center stage in a performance directed by Tod Sebens.
“Let me go out mother, please!” Angustias (Cheryl Mullins) pleaded at a recent rehearsal.
“Let you go out?” Bernarda Alba (Judith McDermaid) replied. “I will after I take the powder off of your face, you spineless, painted hussy!”
‘The House of Bernarda Alba’ is a play filled with repression and jealousy. Matriarch Bernarda’s husband dies, and she imposes an eight-year mourning period on her family. It traps her five daughters in the house.
“I’m trying to keep them virtuous,” Judith McDermaid, who plays Bernarda, said. “I want them to have good reputations. I want to keep my reputation and the reputation of this house and in order to do that I have to be very strict.”
“You have these five women who can’t leave the house for eight years because their father just died,” explained Madeline Witek, who plays Magdelena, the second oldest of Bernarda’s daughters.
One way for the women to escape the house is marriage. The oldest daughter, Angustias, is being courted by a handsome young man named Pepe el Romano.
“The oldest one, who we probably don’t think is the best one for him, is being courted and it’s like the only ticket out of the house,” Witek said.
Jealousy over Angustias and Pepe’s courtship is one of the main tensions in the play.
“Angustias is our sister, but we’re her family here, and we know that she’s old and sickly and has always been the least attractive one of us,” Magedlena says. “Because if she looked like a dressed up stick at 20, what can she look like now that she’s 40?”
While sisters Magdelena, Amelia and Martirio gossip about the courtship, it’s the youngest, 20-year-old Adela who is most devastated.
“I mean she wants her life to go a certain way, she wants the great romance,” said Gina Randles, who plays Adela. “And she found out she has to spend eight years in her house and I think it’s really putting a damper on all her plans.”
Director Tod Sebens found the 1936 drama in a Gustavus second-hand store. It was in a book with nine other plays, and he said this one jumped out at him.
“I liked the complexity of it, I liked the themes it had, I loved Lorca’s writing, although this was a translation,” Sebens said. “But just the ways it flows, he’s very poetic.”
And, the cast is all women. Sebens has directed plays in Haines for 20 years, and he says it’s always a struggle to find men who want to be on stage. But even though there are no men in the play, their presence is still felt.
“You certainly feel them, especially from when Bernarda is telling the daughters what to do and what is expected of them,” said Witek. “You feel the male hand in the play even though none of them are seen.”
So, do any of the daughters escape Bernarda’s confinement?
“One daughter does, but we can’t say how,” Sebens said.
To find out, you’ll have to see the show. Performances are Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m. in the Chilkat Center for the Arts.