Yerma, is a play written by Federico García Lorca and directed by Jeff Award winner Max Truax, coproduced and presented in Chicago by Theatre Y and Red Tape Theatre. This classic Spanish tragic poem is adapted by Héctor Álvarez, performed by The Theatre Y Ensamble and features original music by Jeff Award winning composer Nicholas Tonozzi.
Although written in 1934, Yerma is a play that reflects a reality as current today as it was when Lorca created it. “The grotesque treatment of women” and the repression of feminine sexual instincts and needs are the red thread that guide the storyline of this play. Furthermore, Yerma is about a woman’s longing to be a mother. It is also about her struggle within a stale marriage with a passionless husband who “counts his sheep by day and his money by night" and the overwhelming social pressure she has to endure on a daily basis, from women and men alike.
Immersive staging -- Theatre Y trademark
The play is staged in the black box performance area in the new The Ready space, in the heart of Lincoln Square neighborhood. The unconventional seating allows the public to experience a certain level of intimacy and connection with the play and with the performing actors. As we are invited to take our seats, the actors are already in place in the ring formed by the chairs assigned to the audience, but also behind them, in a fully inclusive setup. The immersive staging, crickets chirping in the background, the deep darkness only torn by a few low lights and the silence of the actors prepared to take us on this tragic journey create a potent tension and expectation for what is about to happen.
Women holding chairs slowly put them down and sit and the evocative silence is broken by pitch black darkness and bells. The play blends the dialogues with songs that disrupt the act in a very pleasant way. This reengages the public, awakening interest throughout the play. The music is surprising, the interpretation of the songs is remarkable and will not allow anyone to remain indifferent.
Trapped in a loveless marriage
Social pressure is constantly represented by the other women becoming mothers and by men spreading rumors about Yerma´s decency and honor. After being given to her husband by her father, she is submitted in a loveless marriage, to a man who believes women must stay in their houses and resents her need to get out in the world. “Lock you. That´s what a husband is for!”
At the same time, it seems like she experiences passionate feelings that surface with every contact between her and Victor the shepherd, resisting the urge to fall in his strong arms.
Yerma is consumed by the need to be a mother
As the play evolves, Yerma grows more and more consumed by the need to attain motherhood. She feels trapped in a sterile marriage, fragile and strong, deprived of love and children. While Katie Stimpson (Yerma), builds up her character little by little, we witness a journey through a storm of feelings, until barefoot she starts losing her mind, everyday wanting more and hoping less.
At the same time, Cody W. Beyer (Juan), Yerma’s husband, is only concerned with honor and rumors while he keeps rejecting her, trying to silence her voice and will.
All in all, the company does an excellent job recreating the limitations of the rural setting and feeling of the play, but for this writer, the decision to dress Juan in modern clothes, with a modern haircut and perfectly trimmed beard seems somehow out of place. While, this is obviously a decision taken with a meditated, specific purpose, to some this choice could seem incongruous with the unity of the whole setup.
Note: This is now added to the Picture this Post round up of BEST PLAYS IN CHICAGO, where it will remain until the end of the run. Click here to read – Top Picks for Theater in Chicago NOW – Chicago Plays PICTURE THIS POST Loves.
Note: an excerpt of this review now appears in Theatre in Chicago.
Thru December, 10
Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m.
Sundays at 4 p.m.
Industry night is Monday, November 6 at 7:30
4546 N. Western Ave.
About the Author:
Laura Buciuman is currently a Marketing Assistant at the Tourist Office of Spain in Chicago. Open-minded and curious, with a major in journalism and philosophy (North University, Romania) and two Master Degrees, one in English and Spanish for specific and business purposes (Alicante University, Spain) and another in International Tourism (EOI Business School, Spain), Laura is passionate about writing, storytelling, traveling, arts and culture. She has already lived in four different countries and visited many others and enjoys discovering different cultures. Reading, gastronomy, latin dances and yoga are some of her hobbies.
Editor's Note: Click here to read more Picture this Post articles by Laura Buciuman