Review: “Blood Wedding”
The theater-in-the-round layout of St. Edward’s University’s Mary Moody Northen Theatre is conducive to a play like Federico Garcia Lorca’s “Blood Wedding,” which depicts a Spanish pueblo coming together for an ill-fated marriage. The close-knit community features gossip, secrets, deception and collective anger, and the inescapable feeling of impending tragedy is shared by the audience members, who are folded into the pueblo.
The ensemble — the women donning fringed shawls and circle-cut skirts, the men bolero pants and vests — encircle the main characters: the bridegroom (Alec Esteban Cudmore) and his widowed mother, the bride (Anna Schultz) and her single father, and the seething Leonardo Felix (Jose Antonio Rodriguez), whose passion for the bride ultimately leads to tragedy. As the mother, Austin Playhouse guest artist Babs George dons all-black in reference to her perpetual mourning for her husband, who was killed by the Felix family years ago. A stoic woman, she remains cautious about the engagement between her son and the bride, who was previously engaged to Leonardo.
The father (played by guest artist J. Ben Wolfe of Austin Playhouse and Hyde Park Theatre) vouches for his daughter’s purity, and soon he and the groom’s mother are talking up their children to each other. An agreement to the marriage is reached when the father notes, “She can cut a rope with her teeth.” The parents expect their children to work the land, produce offspring and continue with the traditions of their village.
The sense of community is reinforced by the structure of the play. Scene changes and transitions are punctuated by music and dance interludes; two guitarists and a percussionist (student musicians Dillon Ford, Eric Swabey-Keith and Jon Richardson) play traditional Spanish music, while the ensemble rhythmically claps its hands, snaps its fingers and stomps its feet.
A lone Spanish dancer (Hannah Marie Fonder) in a dropped-waist, ruffled flamenco dress remains an ominous presence throughout the play, at times perching on platforms overlooking the stage area.
As its title suggests, the play takes a bloody turn when the bride and Leonardo run off together after the wedding ceremony. The groom, enraged, finds the couple in the forest, and the men kill each other.
When the bride returns to the pueblo to face her groom’s mother, her white gloves are stained red, a physical marker of her guilt. The bride, face streaked with tears and mascara, insists upon her purity, but really, the mother has been one step ahead all along.
“Blood Wedding” continues through Nov. 24. Mary Moody Northen Theatre, St. Edward’s University. http://www.stedwards.edu/theatre