Feet stomping, hands clapping, hips swerving, death calling… in a Spanish rural town.
These are the sights and sounds of playwright Frederico Garcia Lorca’s Blood Wedding and The House of Bernarda Alba – the two plays currently on stage at the Prospect Playhouse.
Last night the plays opened to an excited crowd ready to see their family, friends and neighbours perform.
And they weren’t disappointed.
Cayman Drama Society is staging these plays with the vision of Nick Dereza, veteran stage director and mad scientist behind the production.
“I think if you are a list fanatic, both these plays should be in the top 100 plays of all-time,” he says. “Blood Wedding for its style, Bernarda Alba for its all-female cast that has brilliant and varied characters.”
Luckily, the Weekender is a list fanatic, and we agree – these plays are total and unique theatre, a special taste of great drama.
House of actresses
Blood Wedding has quite a diverse cast, with a few strong male leads and many juicy roles for women.
But it’s The House of Bernarda Alba that boasts an all-female cast of diverse backgrounds and different strengths of character and performance.
Fiona Pimentel has a small role in Wedding, but her role of the Grandma is crucial in House.
“The part of Grandma is such fun – she swings from one extreme to the other on the emotional scale,” she says. “And I love that I get to sing and dance a bit too.”
Fiona is a relative newcomer to the world of drama.
“This is the first time I am acting in a play that is open to the public,” she says. “But being in Cayman, I will know most of the people in the audience, which is nice.”
She says she’s feeling out her roles and becoming more comfortable.
“Being in these two plays is incredibly significant for me,” she says. “Until about a year and a half ago, I would not have dared to step onto a stage, let alone sing and dance in front of people. Now, I’m quite relaxed about it.”
Sloane Pharr is also in both plays, with a significant role in each.
“The friend to the bride and Martirio couldn’t be more different,” she says. “It’s been quite a challenge preparing to play two completely opposite characters back to back, but I am looking forward to seeing it all come together.”
Some of the actors get more out of the play than the audience can see. Abbey Le Cornu says she sees many benefits to her performances.
“It’s great to have such a challenging role to play,” she says. “And at the same time I get to vent my real life frustrations through her anger, so it’s a win-win situation.”
The ‘mad scientist’
OK, he’s not that mad. But Nick Dereza is intense and passionate, so the actors like to give him a good ribbing (Julie Ann Hilton, who plays the Mother in Wedding, calls Nick a “pussycat”).
Some of the actors though, like Kelly Rooney, are on stage because of Nick’s wonderful direction and compassion.
“I really wanted to work with a director who had the experience that Nick has,” she says. ”I have not done a lot of acting – I really wanted to be directed.”
Nick is a wild man in each rehearsal, running to each corner of the stage offering notes and advice – the whole production runs perfectly through his mind as he tries to convince all the actors to join in on the fun.
And they don’t need much convincing. Neither will the audience.
“The audience will have their cake and eat it too. With the first show, the audience will be on the stage with the cast – which we will be intimate and compelling – before we move back to classical end on theatre with House,” he says.
“My role is to keep the play moving and the audience constantly challenged visually,” he adds. “I do like the acting to come from the cast and this year I feel more relaxed about that than ever.”
That relaxation and those good vibes translate to audience enjoyment every time, he says.
For more information, visit the Cayman Drama Society website at www.cds.ky. For tickets, call 949-5054 or 525-5054 or go to www.caymanboxoffice.com