Dona Rosita the Spinster (or the language of the flowers)
The Americas took Rosita’s fiancé away from her… Gala Theatre brings Federico Garcia
Lorca’s Spain to the Americas in a play about love, family, tradition, loyalty, migration and the
passage of time. The collaboration between the Embassy of Spain and Gala Hispanic theatre
makes this poetic theatrical transatlantic feat possible. A similar collaboration in 2015 on nother
of Lorca’s lasting theatrical pieces, Yerma, earned that production a Helen Hayes Award for Best
Play and for the main actress, Mabel Del Pozo (Rosita/Yerma), the award for Best Actress.
Lorca is a giant in Spanish literature and remains a profound figure shrouded in eternal
mystery. He is famous for his projection of the status and role of women. He depicts their
strengths and weaknesses and the evolution of their roles from daughters to wives and mothers
in works such as Blood Wedding, Yerma, and Dona Rosita la Soltera. This endeavour, to put
Lorca’s work into theatre at Gala, is to be commended - it is not easy to replicate the poetry and
in this case the humor wrapped around the profoundness of Dona Rosita La Soltera.
Recognizing this difficulty, the production is a resounding success.
Rosita lives with her aunt, uncle and an amiable servant. Her fiancé has to leave Spain to
the Americas to join his parents. Despite her concern for Rosita, the aunt encourages him to do
his duty towards his parents. He promises Rosita he will return and keeps sending her love
letters. The servant, who loves Rosita dearly, is the one most skeptical about the situation. The
fiancé even suggests a “proxy” marriage which never takes place. Under social pressure,
everyone, especially Rosita, keeps up hopes and appearances. Any potential suitor is rejected by
Rosita. She even forgets the looks of her fiancé, but keeps up the pretenses for 15 years, until it is
too late and she loses all hope: “El más terrible de los sentimientos, que es el sentimiento de
tener la esperanza muerta”- “the worst feeling is to have no hope.”
The play preserves the beauty of Lorca’s poetry. It accentuates the sadness of the
situation by downplaying the humor that is more present in the written work. In its original form,
humor was appropriately focused most in one person, the servant or the ‘ama’ who in the book
becomes a very amiable personality. The play succeeds in portraying the social pressures on
‘solteras’ (spinsters) in the visits and conversations with a soltera and a young woman eager to
get married. Mabel del Pozo/Rosita excels in projecting these pressures and the internal struggles
of solteras in the superb final speech. She describes how society looks at her, sometimes in pity,
and sometimes almost in contempt; how she avoids people to negate the passage of time; and
finally how she ignores the reality that her fiancé is not coming back so that she can continue to
live under the illusion that she is promised to him, which makes her more accepted and liked by
society. Around her, life continues, her friends have children and the children have courtesans.
Likely intended by Lorca, the role of men does not loom large, but their impact certainly
does. Rosita’s life is devastated (in her eyes and in the eyes of society) because of a man. The
financial situation of families is compromised when the men die because they leave their wives
largely in the dark on financial matters.
The title of the play is usually accompanied by “the language of flowers”. The uncle is
especially fascinated by one flower which is described in beautiful poetry and song in each act.
At the end, Rosita summarizes the nature of this flower, which is a reflection of her life:
Cuando se abre en la mañana roja como sangre está.
(when it opens in the morning, it is red like blood)
La tarde la pone blanca con blanco de espuma y sal
(in the afternoon it turns white like the salty foam of the sea)
Y cuando llega la noche se comienza a deshojar.
(but when night comes, it starts to wither)