August: Osage County, a 21st C. Bernarda Alba

August: Osage County British poster

I recently wrote about Federico García Lorca’s La casa de Bernarda Alba (you can read about it here). But since I had not written about film, or Film Club since March, here is an update.

This month for Film Club, we chose to do a deep dive on Meryl Streep. This is the first time we try this format as we normally pick a theme or genre, but it worked out well, I think. We saw (in chronological order) Kramer vs. Kramer, Sophie’s Choice, Julie and Julia, and August: Osage County.

Warning, only minor spoilers. In August, Streep plays Violet, a recently widowed, pill popping matriarch and mother of three women (played by Julia Roberts, Julianne Nicholson, and Juliette Lewis who all do phenomenal jobs!). When the family arrive for the father’s funeral the drama unfolds, just like it does in Bernarda Alba… the hidden truths come out, old stories float up to the surface, rivalries are woken, and so on.

Just like with Bernarda, the action takes place mostly in the house, and in Summer. Both these factors add to the tension in both works. August deals with a larger cast which does an amazing job, but the brunt of the work falls on Streep and Roberts; to see both these heavyweights in the same frame is powerful and dramatic.

Of course one has to keep in mind that these works are almost a century apart, but the human drama, emotions, and feelings are the same.

The film is Tracy Lett’s adaptation of her own play and is intense, well crafted, and poetic.

If you want to see outstanding performances, specially from Streep and Roberts, this film is highly, highly recommended.

With my niece pre-show

La casa de Bernarda Alba by Federico García Lorca

Federico García Lorca is Spain’s greatest 20th C playwright (his poetry is also right up there). He is arguably one of the best in his business, period.

La casa de Bernarda Alba is the play I have read and seen the most. Teaching in Boston, every year I would drive my advanced students to New York city to see Repertorio Español‘s production. I have even seen a version done by illiterate Roma women, I also saw a bilingual production by UNC students while I taught and studied there.

The Teatro Español is the oldest running theatre in Europe (since 1583, 439 years ago!), so imagine my surprise when I found out that I was going to be in Madrid during a run of La Casa de Bernarda Alba! I wasted no time in buying tickets and inviting my girlfriend and my eldest niece.

The theatre is right downtown, in the middle of the aptly named Letras neighborhood (Barrio de las letras) because Cervantes and Lope de Vega and others lived there. My niece and I rode a rental scooter there and we met Celia at the theatre.

The presentation was top notch, possibly the best I’ve seen. But, like other times, the director took some liberties with the text, for example cutting out the maid and beggar woman characters, or cutting out dialogue, which I find insulting to the text and the author, grrr. The setting was very minimalist, basically the patio of Bernarda’s house.

After the play we went to dinner to my grandad’s favorite bar, the Viva Madrid, around the corner from the theatre.

It was a great evening, the show was amazing, and we all had a great time!

What is your favorite play? Tell us in the comments section.