“The House of Bernarda Alba” takes the stage



“The House of Bernarda Alba” takes the stage during the month of November.

Sexual repression, dominance, guilt, oppression. “The House of Bernarda Alba,” the newest production put on by Oakland University’s Music, Theatre and Dance Department promises all of this and more.

When domineering Bernarda Alba’s husband dies in 1930s Spain, she orders an eight-year mourning period for her entire household — including her five grown daughters, who deeply resent the unyielding amount of power she holds over them. Chaos ensues when a handsome young villager tries to marry one of the daughters, inciting rage and jealousy among the sisters.

“The ebb and flow of it is drastic,” said Lily Talevski, junior musical theatre major, also describing the overall plot of the show as “heightened.”

The all-female cast is directed by theatre professor Karen Sheridan.

Originally performed in Spanish, it was written by well-known Spanish dramatist Frederico Garcia Lorca in the 1930s and is classified as a tragedy.

Stefanie Sambrano, who plays Bernarda, admited that taking on the part of the abrasive matriarch was difficult.

“I’ve never played such a strong character with so much power, against everyone else on stage,” said Sambrano, a senior musical theatre major. “Feeling the shift of it and how I use it has been very informational to me.”

Talevski plays the second-oldest daughter, Magdalena, whom she described as “bitter” and “practical.”

“I feel that there’s something relatable in every sister and every character in the show,” Sambrano said.

The Studio Theatre in Varner Hall, where the play will be performed, has been manipulated so that the audience will be sitting very close to the stage, right in the midst of the action.

“The audience is right there in your face,” Talevski said. “It’s a special balancing act that you have to do by letting the audience in, without breaking that fourth wall.”

The set, designed by Krystal Smoger, reflects the closed-off world that Bernarda and her daughters live in.

“[There are] archways and empty spaces to hide and gossip in,” said Anita Holsey-Banks, stage manager of the show. “But it’s also a world where the outside world is not really invited, which makes the space feel like imprisonment and empty.”

While watching the action unfold onstage can be difficult to absorb, the cast hopes that the audience takes away the positive overall message of the play.

“It’s important to not give up hope,” Sambrano said. “The audience is exposed to these five daughters, who all represent who you would think represent a family. Their beginning and their end is this home, but they still hold out all of this hope and love . . . and they still believe there is life outside of the walls.”

Tickets for “The House of Bernarda Alba” can be purchased at the Varner Hall box office, at startickets.com and at the service window of the CSA. Tickets are priced $15 for general admission and $8 for students. View the schedule of performances (the 2 p.m. Nov. 13 and the 8 p.m. Nov. 19 performances are shadow signed for the deaf) or watch the trailer.