Halcyon Theatre at Steep Theatre (see Fringe & storefront). By Federico García Lorca. Dir. Tony Adams. With Monica Lopez, Gerardo Cardenas, Paul Fagen, Andréa Morales, Karen Yates.
The second entry in García Lorca’s trilogy of rural tragedies may be less familiar to modern audiences than its bookends Blood Wedding and The House of Bernarda Alba. Halcyon suggests in its program notes that some producers may find the story of an unhappy wife driven mad by her childlessness to be too dated now that we’re all familiar with the ins and outs of reproductive science. Exactly the opposite is the case. Yerma’s utter hopelessness; trapped in a loveless, repressive arranged marriage; and fruitlessly praying to God and the saints for a child to make things better, is only more tragic from a modern perspective.
García Lorca’s protofeminist tale is about life without the possibility of reward: Yerma lives in a society where women have no purpose but to keep house and make babies; the former she finds unfulfilling, and for reasons unknown to her she can’t make the latter happen. Adams stages the action at breakneck pace, without the solemn, let-it-sink-in pauses that often mark García Lorca’s work. Along with Lopez’s intense, angry title character—no slow burner, she goes from panic to manic—this makes for an uncommonly heated Yerma. Adams handles his ensemble cast well, creating nice effects in large group scenes such as the washerwomen at the river and the third-act pagan fertility ritual, when Jennifer Zielinski’s costume design makes a quietly telling observation: The only time in this play’s environment we see any expression of sensuality and joy, it’s behind masks.—Kris Vire