"Bernarda's Daughters" at The Romulus Linney Theatre is based off of Lorca's "House of Bernarda". The stories premise is based on a family of girls living in a Flatbush apartment (somehow is owned by them). The five sisters are mourning the passing of their father (a big womanizer and deadbeat).
In the book it is more clearly stated about each of their lives; the personal loses of their youth, the dreams that each one had growing up. The book also brings out how the girls were expected to exceed their ancestors. From Haitian ancestry, the girls clearly should have had an easier chance at being more successful than the past generations. The father has left a property in Haiti, the Flatbush apartment and the seemed comfortable to grow as they saw fit.
In the play that I saw last night, however, it is completely different in its approach on many levels, all of which were both dreadful and confusing to the audience. For starters, the scenic design was the biggest head scratch-er of the evening. The entire set was meshed in like you would see at a child's gym-bore. And like the kids party centers the visuals were blurred for the audience members. It is unclear as to why Carlos J. Soto would set the stage the way he did, meshing in the actors and giving some of the audience fits trying to see what's going on during the performance (not that you were missing much).
In the writing of this modern rendition by Diane Exavier we get a mish mosh of some of the things that concern the girls... the gentrification of Flatbush, Brooklyn; the person that is mentally ill who was just shot by police; the father who sold the family assets to his "Jew lawyer"... but don't worry, one of the daughters is going to sleep with him, marry him for the property! The construction that goes on day after day- really bad for the girls because they never leave the air conditioned apartment because it's too dangerous to go out because of crime on the streets and in their minds, discrimination by the cops.
The direction here is as bad a the writing. Dominique Rider has the woman in a whirlwind of movements and actions; most of it is geared towards ghetto phrases and actions. Most of the time we cannot hear the actors saying their lines. A really big detriment here is the sudden outbursts in certain scenes that are not believable nor felt by the audience.
Nothing in this play is worth noting as possitive. The acting is fair at best, we never really feel anything for the woman, we're never moved by the performers. When the woman tee-off on the cops, "whitey" who is moving into the area (only the Jews are spared here in their rants against just about everyone, maybe because Elliott and Bernstein are Artistic and Executive directors) it is not from within but superficial. Confusing is how they go about a history lesson of how Jews were only allowed in finance because of antisemitism. I'm sure most people in poor areas know that tid bit! But then again, the whole play is confusing. What drives the girls? One is a revolutionary who has never been to a protest; one wants a family but is willing to dump the man she loves for a lawyer who can give back her apartment. Of all the sisters we walk away from the show knowing nothing about them
In today's equity, inclusion, many shows both on and off Broadway are being produced that shouldn't be," Bernarda's Daughters " is one of those plays!
Romulus Linney, The New Group, National Black Theatre, off Broadway, Tony Awards, www.swmnimbus.org, www.broadwayworld.com, Mann About Town, Hamilton, Sweeney Todd, Some Like it Hot, A Beautiful Noise, Life of Pi, Six, Lion King.
About the Creator
I have been writing on theater since 1982. A graduate from Manhattan College B.S. A member of Alpha Sigma Lambda, which recognizes excellence in both English and Science. I have produced 12 shows on and off Broadway. I've seen over700 shows