This Blood Wedding was a choreographically daring take on the bloody story of family rivalry. Engaging and thoughtful throughout, the production managed to showcase a few compelling New York actors and a visiting Israeli television star in a fresh new version of the classic Spanish play.
The play begins when a bridegroom (Culley Johnson) begs his mother to allow him to marry his beautiful inamorata (Israeli TV actress Meital Dohan). His mother (Rebecca Tanaman) is reluctant because of the family's connections and its history of rivalry. The bridegroom and the bride collect the blessings of their parents and the wedding plans are set in motion. There is just one problem. The bride has a lover whom she still has feelings for. When the wedding takes place and the families carry on in celebration, the bride and her lover escape in secret. When the mother learns of this, she is furious and grants her only son permission to kill them, something she said she would never do as her own husband was murdered years before in a similar conflict.
Translations of a play are never quite as good as in the original language, and Lorca's work seemed at a disadvantage in English. Some of the playwright's poetry is present, but the inherent beauty of the Spanish meaning is lost.
Johnson played a charming bridegroom and demonstrated a tender devotion to his mother that put him in a perfect light. This is a great setup that led to the inevitable deception in the "good guys always finish last" approach. Tanaman was terrific in the maternal role for an actress so young. She fumbled on her lines more than twice, which briefly took the audience out of the scene. Of course, the calculating precision of her character leaves little room for mistakes. Fortunately, she was able to direct the audience right back into the story by the sheer force of her acting.
Seth Duerr (the father) was fitting in his role. His anxious demeanor as he fumbled about with his walking stick was a fun contrast to Tanaman's sternness in the scene where the two meet. In a few scenes, the groom (Johnson) carried Tanaman around the stage in a chair, simulating the journey of a horse and carriage. What a diva!
The slovenly-attractive Derek Roche played Leonardo, the lover, with typical Latin lover bravado. The lover, restlessly haunted by the memory of his true love, rides his horse all night to meet her.
Dohan's bride was icy and callous. It came as a surprise that she would run away with Roche during the wedding party because it did not seem as if she liked him in the first place. The actress spoke with a very thick accent, which made the text difficult to understand. Dohan's acting was strong, but she certainly seemed miscast in her role.
The shirtless wonders, Adam Delia and Patrick MacDaniel, were quiet but potent figures in the play in various roles.
One of the true stars of the show had to be the impressive Michael Ables in the roles of Death and the Beggar Woman. The androgynous actor dominated the stage in a shamelessly vulgar manner that was downright fascinating to watch.
Bat Parnes played the narrative role of the servant with more sexual undertones than Britney Spears on a hot day in New Orleans, as she carried her tray across the stage in a hypnotizing saunter.
Delia Baseman played the tragic role of the wife of Leonardo who is publicly humiliated when her husband runs off with the bride and is consequently murdered. Baseman showed a mastery of pathos.
Anna McHugh was excellent as the mother-in-law who chases Leonardo for answers and nags him about his whereabouts. Dangerous and dramatic in its execution, McHugh's electrifying hula-hoop dance was one of the most thrilling moments in the show. Who would have ever thought that such astonishing drama could be found in a hula-hoop dance?
Shefler directed a fine production and left few things to chance. Each scene seemed dependent on the previous and next section, much as in the style of musical theatre.
The music (not credited in the program) for the show was adequate, but the sound execution was an utter disaster. Blasting out of the speakers on high volume in the middle of a musical phrase and then cutting out without a fade was a poor choice, if it was indeed intentional. Parnes should have been allowed to sing over all the transitions, considering she was vocally showcased so few times.
Tonya Marie Brown provided the ornate costumes. Her vision was most significant in the Christmas lights draped around Dohan, which had to be one of the most creative things in the show.
Caron Eule's choreography was a prominent voice in this production. If one did not know the story, it could have been easily mistaken for a dance concert "with scenes." It is rare that a director gives the choreographer so much freedom. Shefler's showed an ability to delegate. Eule's work was delightful.
Time Swiss designed a chilling and suspenseful lighting scheme, and Eric Flatmo's creative set, which included dozens of empty wine bottles all over the stage, connected by string, was a work of art.
The show also featured Brie Eley, Keith Anthony Lewis, Jannecke Foss and Rita Garg.
Writing: 2/Translation: 1
Lighting: 2/Sound: 0
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Copyright 2004 Jade Esteban Estrada