The play centers on the events of a house in Andalusia during a period of mourning, in which Bernarda Alba (aged 60) wields total control over her five daughters Angustias (39 years old), Magdalena (30), Amelia (27), Martirio, (24), and Adela (20). The housekeeper (La Poncia) and Bernarda’s elderly mother (María Josefa) also live there.
The deliberate exclusion of any male character from the action helps build up the high level of sexual tension that is present throughout the play. Pepe “el Romano”, the love interest of Bernarda’s daughters and suitor of Angustias, never appears on stage. The play explores themes of repression, passion, and conformity, and inspects the effects of men upon women.