Bernarda Alba's house is not a nice place to be, but Lorca's story of women trapped within societal conventions and unable to express their sexuality has become a classic of Latin theatre.
New York's Repertorio Espanol keeps a production of La Casa De Bernarda Alba in its running repertory, and now playwright Migdalia Cruz will bring her adaptation of the drama to Classic Stage Company on East 13th Street.
CSC artistic director David Esbjornson is staging Another Part Of The House, which began previews March 4 and opens Wednesday, March 12. The original play concentrated on strict Bernarda, keeping the house as a place of mourning for eight years, with dire consequences ensuing when a good looking young man comes on the scene. Cruz's play keeps the same story and timeframe, but explores the tale from the other characters' points of view.
Author Cruz told Playbill On-Line that she especially enjoys "exploring the part of the grandmother. She breaks out of the room where they keep her locked in, and she's the voice of freedom in my play. Of course, they shut her back in. There's also the youngest granddaughter, Adela, who loves Pepe. It's more of an ensemble piece where the lives of each character are explored. All the voices left unheard in Casa you can hear in my play. . .you're listening behind closed doors. That's where the title comes from; it's another part of the house." In her adaptation, Cruz also incorporates bit of Lorca's poetry and puppet plays.
Director of Theatre Programming at Latino Chicago, Cruz just saw her play, Fur revived at Chicago's Steppenwolf Studio Theatre. She's now working on a play called Salt, about "a family of child prostitutes that lives in a salt mound on the highway of Chicago's South Side. It's based on a true story of young boy prostitutes who used to live near the East River. These are rootless children forced to find family and spiritual healing. The play shows how the mechanics of a city and politics can destroy children." Cruz adds that there's also "a priest -- and a Messiah" which leads to the question of whether her work falls into the category of "magic realism" -- a label given so many current Hispanic playwrights. "I think my work falls more under "poetic realism." I wouldn't call it magic realism; if you believe, say, in ghosts, then it's not magic. I try to give voice to people in society who often aren't considered worthy or capable of poetry. Even with Lorca, I was inspired by his play and wanted to explore it further. But I didn't deconstruct it or make it something else. It's like that potion that children's book character Encyclopedia Brown has called `everything moreso.' It's the same, but moreso."
Asked about future projects, Cruz said her next play, being developed for New York's Public Theatre, will be about poet and doctor Ramon Betances, considered "the first father of Puerto Rican Independence. The play will show the 1860s movement to break from Spain. It's the second work in Cruz's Puerto Rican political history series for the Public, the first being Lolita de Llares, about the 1950s' Lolita Lebron, who spent 27 years in prison for storming Congress and wounding five Congressman in the cause of Puerto Rican independence.
Appearing in Another Part Of The House -- which is not to be confused, with A Park In Our House by Migdalia Cruz's good friend, Nilo Cruz -- will be Irma St. Paule as Maria Josefa. She previously acted at CSC in Endgame and Don Juan Comes Back From The War. Also in the cast are Doris Difarnecio, Sara Erde, Kadina Halliday, Mercedes Herrero, Seth Kanor, Paula Pizzi, Adriana Sevan and Patricia Triana.
Designers for House include Chris Muller (sets), Michael Krass (costumes), Ken Posner (lighting) and John Kilgore (sound). Morgan Jenness serves as dramaturg for the production.
For tickets ($15-$33) and information on Another Part Of The House at CSC, through April 6, call (212) 677-4210.
--By David Lefkowitz