“The House of Bernarda Alba by Federico García Lorca

“Tether the mares; let the stallion run free,” says the cruelly dictatorial Bernarda, mother of five daughters. The quote aptly describes life in her house. But don’t think this is simply a domestic drama. Within it, Federico García Lorca says much about women in repressive male-dominated societies, and even more about Spain as Franco’s power was ascending. (Lorca was assassinated shortly after completing the work.)

Bernarda is a tyrant. Her unmarried daughters pay the price. As in all dictatorships, secrecy, jealousy, hatred, and fear are primary emotions. In this one there’s also rampant sexual desire that can’t be fulfilled.

Produced by Arouet Productions and forcefully directed by Charles Waxberg with assistance from Roy Arauz, this production makes the most of the play’s opportunities for arresting tableaux and lyrical dramatic action.

Ruth McRee’s dynamic performance as Bernarda is memorable. Her hands grasp her cane with aggressive intensity. Her facial expressions are hard, determined, imperious. She’s ever on guard, an enforcer with a dirty job to do and the qualifications to do it well.

With support from an accomplished cast, she wields her spell over everyone, reminding us that tyranny exists on many levels.

SEE MY FULL REVIEW: May 10 seattletimes.nwsource.com

Through May 19 at The Ballard Underground, 2220 NW Market St., Seattle, $12-$18 (Brown Paper Tickets 800-838-3006 or http://arouet.us)

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