Blood Wedding is considered one of the most important plays to have ever come out of Spain. Federico Garcia Lorca, a poet as well as a playwright and theatre director, was able to capture in this tense and violent story the kind of inter-familial clashes, the love, the infidelity, the gang-like warfare that exemplified the people he wrote about. The Odyssey Theatre is presenting a new version by Tanya Render that was first performed for London’s Almeida Theatre. In this current production we get director Jon Lawrence Rivera’s take on the story.
Rivera is one director I have come to admire. While I don’t always agree with his direction, he always manages to elicit heartfelt emotion from his actors and always moves an audience. The prime example of this was last year’s Oedipus El Rey which told the Oedipus story from a Hispanic perspective. In Blood Wedding the story is transformed from one about Spanish folk to one taking place in an American locale in central California circa 1952.
In this very poetic version, the story gains universality beyond its locale. By using a multicultural cast, by transforming one of the characters usually played by a woman into an effeminate male (played by Ivan Davila), Rivera gives the piece a decidedly modern feel. He emphasizes the mystic qualities of the piece through lighting by Derrick McDaniel and a wonderful set by John H. Binkley which consists of little more than a huge cutout of a moon, a circular platform, and a few wooden chairs. Rivera is able to turn this tale which is bigger than life into a grounded cautionary tale.
The actors are all quite good but standouts are Marjorie Gaines as the mother-in-law, Alberto Isaac as the father, Sharon Omi as the mother, and a riveting performance by Joshua Zar as Leonardo. I found Nikki McKenzie as the Bride out of her depth. I have seen Blood Wedding a number of times but very much enjoyed this new version by playwright Tanya Ronde; she and director Rivera have given us a vital retelling of a classic tale.
Blood Wedding will play at the Odyssey Theatre until August 14.
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