If William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe are the kings of English tragedy, then Federico Garcia Lorca es el rey de la tragedia española.
A Southwestern College production of Lorca’s “Blood Wedding,” directed by Sandra Cortez, was expertly and efficiently executed. It managed to slowly ramp up the tension until the tragedy at the heart of the play was fully realized in a visually powerful climax. Even without prior knowledge of the story, Lorca lets on from the very first scene that death is in the air.
“Blood Wedding” is the story of infidelity in a broken love triangle. Although the Bride (Sabrina Boudreaux) is to be wed to her Bridegroom (Jordon Holguin), she wishes to be with her old lover, Leonardo (Brenton Warren), who is unhappily married. It is far too late for either of them to actually be together and the guilt of their affair causes them to lash out at each other and their loved ones. Soon after her wedding, the lovers flee into the night and are hunted by the spurned Bridegroom.
“Blood Wedding” is part of Lorca’s “rural trilogy” of tragedies set in the Spanish countryside. It focuses on the conflict between desire and duty in a time and place where men and women were encouraged to marry out of economic necessity, not love. Lorca portrays a cold truth that the universe punishes those that attempt to challenge fate. There is no escape from the cycle of oppression crushing Spanish rural society.
Every day Leonardo rides his horse nearly to death so that he may visit his secret love in the early hours of the morning, when the Bride is said to be baking bread. He lies to his wife (Violeta Reuiz-Lopez) and her mother (Grecia Juarez) while taking out his guilt and shame on them.
Reuiz-Lopez and Juarez also sing a haunting lullaby with lyrics that allude to the eventual bloodshed in an attempt to comfort the baby and each other. Despite knowing something is wrong, neither Leonardo’s wife nor his mother-in-law are able to act on their suspicion. Reuiz-Lopez and Juarez capture the emotional struggle of those trapped in an abusive relationship.
The set pieces for “Blood Wedding” are minimal and effective. In any given scene only a few chairs or tables are present. There is nothing to distract the audience from the human drama unfolding on stage except for the grim memento mori behind the stage.
Projected in the background throughout the entire play is a floating moon imposed with a death’s-head hawkmoth. This omen of doom bears markings on its back that resembles a human skull. As the play progresses, the moth grows until it blocks out the light of the moon. It serves to build tension right up to the bloody end.
When the Bride and Leonardo decide to flee and hide in the woods, the star-crossed lovers are exposed by a white-clad personification of the Moon (Rosa Pritchard) that craves that blood be spilled. Despite the prayers of a sympathetic woodcutter for clouds to hide the fleeing lovers, the moon refuses to protect them.
Death takes the form of a beggar woman dressed in rags (Erica Mejos) that helps guide the Bridegroom to where his Bride and her lover have hidden. She revels in the death of the two men, who kill each other in a stunning knife fight. As they die tangled in each other’s bloody limbs, the moon disappears, satisfied with their sacrifice.
It is the Bridegroom’s Mother (Cynthia Ochoa) who suffers the most. Ochoa turns in the play’s most powerful performance, able to capture her character’s terrible loss with convincing emotion. Without her son, she has lost everything – save her former daughter-in-law soaked in the blood of her lovers. Though the Bride wishes for death, the Mother decides living is a worse punishment.
While the rest of the cast did well, some of the more dramatic moments seemed crude and lacked Ochoa’s nuance. Anger came easy, but these younger actors had difficulties capturing the subtleties of shame, guilt, regret and loss that were necessary to depict the inner turmoil between the Bride and Leonardo. Though they did well in capturing the love-hate relationship with each other, their interactions with other characters were at times too blunt.
The Bridegroom’s mother lost her husband and another son to violence before the start of the play at the hands of Leonardo’s family, who still survive in jail.
Sons are doomed to repeat the mistakes of their fathers and continue a cycle of intergenerational violence that soaks the sky in blood. And the moon is pleased.