Yerma | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Yerma 

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By the time Spanish dramatist Federico Garcia Lorca, born a century ago this year, was murdered by Franco's fascists in 1936, he'd written among other things a stack of well-regarded surrealist poetry and a trilogy of thematically related plays, Blood Wedding, Yerma, and The House of Bernarda Alba. The central play, Yerma, concerns a young Spanish farm wife who yearns for a child but hasn't conceived, either because she or her husband is infertile or because her husband ignores her. On a deeper level, however, the play is about the plight of all Spaniards, trapped as they were by outmoded traditions and an inflexible social order (it was not for nothing that the fascists executed Lorca). The beauty of this production is how much the New York-based Repertorio Español is able to communicate with a minimum of set pieces and props. Performing in rustic early-20th-century costumes on a nearly bare stage, they use the most basic theatrical tools--voice and gesture--to raise from the dust the whole calcified social milieu Lorca sought to expose: the stiff-backed men; resentful, dispirited women; and hopelessly hopeful girls, expecting much more from the world than it could ever deliver. In this setting, Yerma--a woman whose every complaint and prayer for a child stirs the ire of her friends, neighbors, and family--is emblematic of hope and the wish for change. Repertorio Español performs in Spanish, but the play is so powerful and the production so evocative that even non-Spanish speakers will be moved by Yerma's tragic attempts to bring life into a sterile world. Columbia College Theater/Music Center, Getz Theater, 72 E. 11th, 312-431-1330. December 4 and 5: Friday, 7 PM; Saturday, 2 and 7 PM. $15-$22. --Jack Helbig

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Gerry Goodstein.

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