On February 19, 2010, I saw the student performance of Federico Garcia Lorca’s "Blood Wedding" in the Studio Theatre of Northeastern University, and directed by Antonio Ocampo-Guzman.
Program Cover of "Blood Wedding" at Northeastern University
This play (written in 1932) and set in a rural village during the Spanish Civil War, is composed of 16 characters. It commences with excellent Flamenco guitar-playing and other live music, but the set design and costumes were minimal (as is often the case with student performances on a budget) which unfortunately detracted from distinguishing the multiple characters and overall setting. The story told by this drama (first in a trilogy by the playwright) revolves around a love triangle, akin to a Greek tragedy.
Most central to the plot are the Mother (played by Mali MacConnell), her son – the Bridegroom (played by Ian Harris), the Bride (played by Kate Downey), and “Leonardo”, the Bride’s former lover (played by Paul Dranginis).
As is frequently found in Spanish and Latin American fictional writing, objects in nature and existential elements are given human form and speech. The characters of Death (Joseph Frangieh) and the Moon (Michael Underhill) were especially well-acted, and the associated sets and costumes, albeit simple, are the most imaginative and provide a surreal quality. In fact, I found this to be the most creatively conceived element of this production.
I had seen Carlos Saura’s 1981 dance film, “Blood Wedding” years ago, and was engrossed by it. Therefore, I was excited about seeing this interpretation of the play. Unfortunately, the Program did not include the synopsis and, since I’d forgotten the historical backdrop to the plot, I spent much of the first Act trying to recall it and feeling confused by the dialogue and interactions between the characters.
For anyone in the audience who did not already know where or when the play was supposed to take place, this could have been easily alleviated by projecting slides or hanging a poster on the back wall or the use of props. Also, the lack of distinguishing costumes between the older and younger characters made it more difficult to tell them apart at first.
However, the acting was good enough that I became engrossed in the story throughout Acts II and III. In particular, the character of Leonardo was played with an emotional depth, as was "Death and the Moon".
The lyrics to songs, particularly the lullaby to the baby, early in the play, was essential to understanding the tragic sentiment of the play. Yet, the singers often faced away from the audience so it was difficult to hear the words.
While the overall performance was amateur, it renewed my interest in learning more about Federico Garcia Lorca and “Blood Wedding”. One of Spain’s greatest poets and playwrights, he disappeared and was presumed murdered during the Spanish Civil War. This play, re-titled "Bitter Oleander", was first performed on Broadway in 1935 and flopped, perhaps because of its surreal and stylized aspects.
This was an impressive undertaking for college students and the director to present this multi-faceted script. I now hope someday to have the opportunity to see this play performed in a theatre again.
March 5, 2010