Erin Shea Brady is a contributing writer and critic at PerformInk and Newcity Stage. Directing credits include: Everybody (Brown Paper Box Co.) and Cabaret, Annapurna (staged reading) and The Rise and Fall of Little Voice (No Stakes Theater Project). Erin has assistant directed and dramaturged productions at the Goodman, Jackalope, TimeLine, A Red Orchid, Northlight, and Remy Bumppo. Erin is a graduate of the directing program at Columbia College Chicago, the internship program at Steppenwolf, Jackalope's inaugural Playwright's Lab, and participated in the Goodman's Criticism in a Changing America bootcamp. Erin is a company member with Brown Paper Box Co. and is currently pursuing her MSW at Loyola.
(Chance Bone, Helen Sadler and Eva Barr in “Blood Wedding” at Lookingglass Theatre. Photo by Liz Lauren)
Federico Garcia Lorca’s tragic BLOOD WEDDING has long been appreciated for its poetry, its imagery, and its ferocity. Lookingglass Theater Company prides itself on redefining the limits of theatrical experience, largely through physical theater and innovation in design. Though the collaboration of Lorca and Lookingglass is promising, the production’s aesthetic choices dominate Lorca’s words and characters instead of supporting them.
A play is made relatable when the characters’ experiences are authentic – their relationship to each other, their choices, how they’re affected by their circumstances as they move through the world of the play. It seems, from director Daniel Ostling’s program note, that this production tried to make the play more relatable to the Lookingglass audience by setting it in the U.S. instead of southern Spain, a choice that I felt was misguided. To imply that Americans will only see themselves in a play that is set in America underestimates the audience and underestimates Lorca, whose work is transcendent. While I respect that Ostling took a risk, it was odd and unnecessary – and with so many theaters making an effort to be more inclusive of minorities and actors of color, I felt an opportunity was missed.
Ostling’s direction, overall, felt disjointed and calculated. The actors seemed to be directed towards stage pictures, rather than intentions and objectives, and the scene work lacked specificity. That said, one of the more successful devices used was the constant presence of the actors, which allowed us to feel the social/familial obligation that suffocates the Bride and Leonardo.
Many of the actors did a fine job playing in the world that was made for them – most especially, the women. As Leonardo’s wife, Atra Asdou handles the play’s poetic language particularly well, using the beauty of the words to strengthen her choices and intentions. Helen Sadler (The Bride) runs the emotional gamut with real honesty and commitment. Christine Mary Dunford is vehement and tenacious in her role as The Bridegroom’s Mother, whose journey is arguably the most tragic. I also enjoyed Eva Barr as the Maid – she gives a funny, thoughtful and grounded performance.
But in this dark and tragic world, I was never quite sure who I was rooting for. I wasn’t sure what I was meant to take away from the production. Though the pacing was solid – two intermissions served the production well – the focus was unclear.
As part of Lorca’s “rural” trilogy, this production holds up in its earthiness – in particular, the music by Rick Sims was well-executed, though it seemed, at times, to be separate from the play itself. The design elements, while lovely individually, didn’t seem to move the story forward.
I think that this production is well-intentioned, and there are some successful elements, but those elements on their own aren’t enough to take us on Lorca’s journey.
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