A lover awaits. A bride runs away. And so, Federico Garcia Lorca’s classic tale of passion, deception and vengeance begins. The Philadelphia Artists’ Collective teamed up with Drexel University’s Co-op Theater Company to present “Blood Wedding” at Drexel’s Mandell Theater.
Founded in 2008 by Damon Bonetti and Dan Hodge, the PAC has quickly established itself as a promising theater company with talented artists that teamed up with the Mandell Professionals in Residence Project at Drexel University to produce “Blood Wedding.” The show ran from Nov. 6 to Nov. 23.
There was a “pre-show” performance in the lobby of the Mandell Theater. The performance was very engaging and involved three dance pieces choreographed by Elba Hevia y Vaca, artistic and executive director and founder of local flamenco company “Pasion y Arte Flamenco.” The actors, dancers and musicians staged a celebratory wedding procession, which introduced the audience to the “El Novio,” the groom, played by the wonderful Eric Scotolati, who led the audience into the theater through a side entrance. As I walked through the dim-lit narrow corridor, I was amazed to see the little decorations overhead and on either side of the corridor –– there were decorative strips of crops along with the dainty handmade lamps overhead. As the place started filling up, everyone noticed “The Moon,” played by Laura Allan, and a mysterious beggar (Stephen Lyons) present before them.
Lorca’s original three-act play was presented in two parts and ran for approximately two hours and 30 minutes. Not once did the hackneyed love-triangle or the predictable ending bore me, thanks to the artists’ powerful performances.
The first act began with a ballad sung by “The Moon” and the beggar. Interestingly, all sound effects were created live, including a rich forest soundscape which was to follow during the show. Barrymore Award-winning theater artist, composer and guitarist Christopher Colucci composed all of the music to be performed throughout the play, with lyrics based on Lorca’s poetry and prose. The song was followed by a scene between the Mother, played by New York and regional theater veteran Judith Lightfoot Clarke, and the Groom. Right in the beginning, the audience sensed the tension as it was revealed that the Father was killed by men of the Felix family, and how the Mother fears knives and guns. The tension intensifies as later, a neighbor (played by Virginia Barrie) reveals that the girl that her son loves had an ex-lover named Leonardo Felix, a relative of the men who killed the Mother’s husband. The Mother is furious, but she decides to visit the girl and her family anyway. Meanwhile, Leonardo Felix (played by J. Hernandez) is introduced with a lovely ballad by his wife (Joy Weir) that also subtly hints at the restlessness and violence that is to unfold. It is revealed that Leonardo is unhappy with his married life, and it is not hard to guess why –– he is still in love with his ex-lover, now the Bride of “El Novio.”
The audience has a first-hand look at how the groom’s and the bride’s families interact, and there are a few comedic dialogues that win hearty laughter from the audience. It is then that the Bride, played by Victoria Rose Bonito, is introduced. It becomes apparent how much the Groom loves her and how much she does not reciprocate the feeling. Furthermore, it is revealed that Leonardo paid the Bride a visit a night before, and that she still has strong feelings for him.
The audience is soon transformed to the wedding day with the song “Let the Bride Wake” and celebratory singing by the ensemble, who served as the Greek chorus and included Dean Bloomingdale, Alex Cummiskey, Betina Dalope, Corey Fedorowich, Sophie Hirsch, Georgie Mandera and Ben Webster, all Drexel University students.
As the celebrations come to an end, the Bride is nowhere to be seen. It is then that Leonardo’s wife comes running into the celebrations and screams, “They’ve fled! They’ve fled, she and Leonardo. On his horse. She was holding him tight; they went past like the wind.” Act one ends with the Bridegroom leaving with another guest, and the Mother ordering everyone else to follow to save the tragedy that is to follow.
Act two begins after a short interval. The stage is now transformed to look like a forest. It is revealed that the beggar is actually Death. Leonardo and the Bride reappear in the forest, trying to evade their trackers. They perform a very passionate scene on-stage where the intensity of their love and desire for each other is depicted. Their happiness is short-lived because soon, the Groom arrives from behind as Death envelopes its cape around them. The next scene shows the Neighbor and the Mother, and by the former’s weeping, it becomes obvious that the Groom and Leonardo killed each other.
The performances were nuanced and captivating. The show also managed to elucidate the sexism persistent in society, with the Mother often educating her son about ways to “control” his wife by biting her. With heartfelt performances, engaging dialogues and lyrics and Damon Bonetti’s skillful direction, “Blood Wedding” was a joy to experience and a production to be cherished by its audience for ages.