Baruch’s Bernie West has welcomed us to 1930s Spain with a production of Gabriel Garcia Lorca’s Blood Wedding. Directed by Baruch’s very own Christopher Scott, Blood Wedding is a fiery fiesta full of fierceness, passion, sensuality and, of course, love.
A wedding is about to happen in a small village, exciting and affecting every member of the community. The Groom, played by Zach Mellado, is handsome and loving. The Bride, Jenna Smith, is gorgeous and affectionate. The only problem is the Bride’s past—particularly a man named Leonardo, played by Tomas Anderson. He is the only character in the play who has a name, a distinction that makes him not only more prominent, but also more isolated. Leonardo is the village recluse due to a long history of family feuds. Leonardo still loves the Bride and will do anything to prevent her marriage and, as the title suggests, there will be blood.
The major component of this production is its insane tension. As the show opens, all the characters are walking in a solemn tragic march. Their moves are calculated and unexpected and the characters are predictable, yet sporadic. A metaphor for trying to break out of the established rules and mundane routines, this idea is the pivotal concept that continues throughout the whole play. The somber opening establishes the general atmosphere and from this opening, things only go downhill. The 90-minute production is a rollercoaster of energy and emotions that do not stop even after the climax. The passion gets so high that there is no pause until the final blackout.
Blood Wedding is another work that proves Scott’s talent as a director. Besides bringing all the elements of the play together in a conventional and dimensional manner, he also nourishes an environment for the actors that allows them to explore their possibilities without wandering the wrong way. Overall, the actors do an impressive job. The two leading men, Mellado and Anderson, create a powerful dynamic by playing two polarized characters with the show building on this rivalry. Mellado plays a mommy's boy, carrying himself with a boyish naivety—he is beyond happy to get married. Anderson plays the role of a man who is deeply tormented and has a furious soul, one who cannot let go of his past. His electrifying anger is like a volcano, holding it within himself and burning himself alive. When he lets it out, there is no way out of his ever-spreading misery.
One of the reasons why Blood Wedding is relevant in the modern theater world is the amount of prominent female roles and their depth and versatility. Eileen Makak plays the Groom's mother, a desperate matriarch who mourns the loss of her husband and sons. Makak depicts a moving portrait of a devastated woman who crushes under the burden of her responsibilities. Jamie Danielle and Rosie Liu play the step-mother and wife of Leonardo respectively, whose infidelities they face with grace so they can stay strong for each other. Another bright star of the show is the joyous Leslie Nicole Ivery who plays the Bride's maid. She is also an erupting volcano but, unlike Leonardo, she never holds back. Her energy is open and outpouring in her every word and her every gesture is saturated with raw sexuality.
As for the Bride, Smith successfully dives into her troubled ingenue and infiltrates the audiences with her painful dilemma. However, she sometimes stops projecting and Lorca's words, each one worth gold, get lost and undelivered. This was a noticeable flaw that some other actors were guilty of as well. Their roles were not as challenging as Smith's, so there is no excuse for them. It is important to draw a clear line, however, and understand that these are not professional actors. These are Baruch students who are mostly business majors.
As for gender roles, there are two particular characters who create an interesting paradox. The characters of Moon, played by Melanie DiPalma, and Death, played by Nicholas Matthews, both fully exploit their gender constructs yet remain outside of any gender identities. DiPalma is gracious and sensitive while Matthews is strong and dominant. Her radiant femininity and his irrepressible masculinity, along with how lustful they are, add spice to the show. Their lust is not physical because they do not desire each other and neither are they attracted to sex. There is a scene where Death is trying to seduce the Groom in the woods. The scene is so intimate that it nears the edge of homoeroticism. However, there is nothing sexual about it. Matthews portrays Death as a creeping beast, patiently waiting for its meal. Death hunts down its prey and it does not care if it is a man, woman or anything else, it just wants to satisfy its desire. Ultimately, lust is what drives the characters and it proves to be a deadly sin.
The production is very minimalistic. The same actors play different characters, the same somber Spanish motives are used as soundtracks, events happen rather quickly and there are no elaborate monologues. The set, by Gregory Paul, reflects this. A couple of ropes strained across the stage work perfectly both for the houses and for the woods. The set is reminiscent of last year’s Fiasco Theater production of Into The Woods, where the ropes representing the woods were intended to make audiences question what is reality and what is fiction. It is a fiction piece with clearly mythical elements, yet it is deeply conventional and real. Blood Wedding is a play about trying to break out of the mundane reality and be set free, topics that are relevant at all times. From the way things turn out, society’s power over its members is much deeper and stronger than one’s will to do as he or she pleases.
As the play progresses and reaches its dramatic peak, the audience is enticed in the corrida of emotions. They observe adultery, betrayal, loss, sexism and the power of destiny. Altogether, there is almost nothing that this play does not implicitly cover. There is room to grow but, overall, Blood Wedding is a production that shows Baruch’s hidden artistic gems and gives hope for the future. The show is still available for viewing on YouTube.