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Davis, California

Sunday, June 4, 2023

The Department of Theatre and Dance presents The House of Bernarda Alba

Today, UC Davis’ Department of Theatre and Dance will premiere Federico García Lorca’s final play The House of Bernarda Alba. The piece is interpreted by Juliette Carrillo, UC Davis’ current Granada Artist-In-Resident. Her direction has gained accolades from The New York Times, and her prolific career has now landed her in Davis.

The House of Bernarda Alba centers on the matriarch Bernarda Alba and her five daughters. The progression of the play explores themes of masculinity and femininity, at times teeming with tension and passion. The play centers on a period of mourning in the Alba family, of the repression accompanying a period of uncertainty.

Carrillo hails from the South Coast Reparatory Theatre, where her directing has taken on seven years of mastery. Now at Davis, Carrillo tries her hand at The House of Bernarda Alba. The play exhibits a sort of “duende”, a Latin soulful and energetic quality characterizing many of the Spanish people.

In certain scenes the audience can see the exaggeration, but also taste a bit of the Spanish offering. However, energy alone does not make for the emotional power within the play.

Wendy Mair, a sophomore dramatic arts major, plays Magdelena, the sleepy sister who experiences devastation in The House of Bernarda Alba.

“My character, Magdalena, is very challenging for me,” Mair said. “I’ve never had such emotional demands for a character before; so truly committing to the emotion is something new and difficult for me. I’m still working on breaking down my barriers that stop me from letting go and surrendering to the moment. It’s hard work for me to learn how to let go.”

Complete in the regard according to costume, sound, and acting, The House of Bernarda Alba is a full production. These are the aspects that arrive and meld together to draw a reaction from the audience. By seeing the play’s thematic repression on stage, the audience can hope to be released if only temporarily from their own repression.

Dan Wilson is The House of Bernarda Alba’s music composer. Wilson wanted the sound to follow each character’s progression, so that the sound evolves as the characters experience change. The waves of audio stimulation range from wine bottles, African drums, and rhythmic clapping — all familiar and natural at the same time.

Additionally, costumes set the scene and place the audience in a time period removed from their own. Maggie Chan is the costume designer on set. Focusing on a more modern interpretation on The House of Bernarda Alba, the costumes mimic the relatively modern aesthetic. It also allowed her to be creative in playing with the values, so to offset and make symbolic the colors on each character. The costumes taken wholly allow for an insight into the characters’ intent, a subtle yet effective part of The House of Bernarda Alba.

The production’s grand scale comes together to appeal to the audience’s senses and the story remains close to the Alba family.

When asked about her favorite scene, Marit Wilkerson, a Ph.D. candidate in ecology, replied with: “I love the scenes with Bernarda Alba and Poncia played by two MFA students. Those ladies are excellent actresses and their dynamic is wonderful to witness.”

Dynamism in The House of Bernarda Alba requires a complete immersion in the character and on stage the relationships not only of the actors but of the character becomes evident.

Malia Abayon, a senior dramatic arts major, strongly believes students should see the production because it will change their perspectives.

“Reality television is the trend right now in America but if people want to see some real, live, stage drama they should come see this play. People will be changed after watching this play,” Abayon said.

PETER AN can be reached at arts@theaggie.org.