14 March 2017
Blood Weddings is currently on stage at Buddies in Bad Times. Federico García Lorca’s play is a classic, and has a rightful place in theatre history, but is a difficult play to stage in part because it is so stylized. It is the story of three families: a Mother (Beatriz Pizano) and her son the Groom (Derek Kwan), his betrothed (Bahareh Yaraghi) and her Father (Steven Bush), and the betrothed’s ex, Leonardo (Carlos González-Vio) and his wife (Sochi Fried). Aside from Leonardo, the characters do not have names.
The engagement is very contentious because we learn that Leonardo’s older brothers killed the father and brother of the Groom, and this is a problem because Leonardo used to be involved with the Bride-to be. The Mother has issues with this, because she seems suspicious of anyone who might have ever been involved with such a violent family, but the Groom preaches forgiveness and reconciliation, often attempting to soothe his mother and smooth over social awkwardness. Eventually it becomes clear that the Bride-to-be and Leonardo are still in love, and after the wedding she runs off with him. The Groom pursues Leonardo, killing him, (because apparently being associated with the murderers of his father and brother was okay but the minute Leonardo stole his woman-property, that’s when this guy gets violent).
The play is about the choices we have, or the choices we don’t, and how this relates to privilege and oppression. The Bride-to-be, for example, is very clearly submitting to this arrangement against her actual desire, probably because the actual love of her life is inexplicably married to someone else and she needs to make sure she figures out her financial situation before she becomes old and no one wants her anymore, because that’s what it’s like to live under patriarchal oppression. Why the Groom loves her, or how he doesn’t see how unhappy she is, is perhaps a function of his privilege which has socialized him to be oblivious to other people’s worlds.
The play is also about about forbidden love, in the case of the Bride and Leonardo, though it’s pretty unclear why they broke up in the first place, or why they were ever in love. That they are angry at each other is not unexpected, but I wanted some sense of the love that had been there to get a sense of the stakes in the first place, a desire which was constantly frustrated throughout the play.
Lorca’s play is a tragedy, and has a sense of grandiosity and drama that are very over the top (at least, to a contemporary Canadian audience). This production, however, does nothing to ground the characters, to fill out the world in a way that breathes life into these people. The lines might be beautiful poetry but if they don’t have intention behind them then they ring a little hollow.
The hollow feeling isn’t entirely uniform of course – Pizano as the Mother gives us some sense of the emotional stakes right from the beginning, although she does hit the same note for the entire play. Meanwhile Stephen Bush, who plays the Father, is acting his face off whilst surrounded by a lot of stiff acting which gave him very little to work with. His naivete combined with that of Kwan’s Groom contrasts sharply with the unhappiness of the other characters, but in a way that seems a bit too black and white. The characters in this play are either oblivious and naïve, or angry and resentful. The design of the set only compiles this feeling – the black and white themes reflected the hollow directing and acting choices that were made, amplifying the ways in which this production lacks colour and nuance.
The best thing in this entire production is Carla Melo’s performance as Death – she stands out as being entirely dropped into the character, her movement interesting and graceful even in its ugliness, and the creepy atmosphere she creates as a result was a breath of fresh air.