Marriage is often thought of as a stepping stone to a successful life, one of many customary beliefs and expectations for an emotionally fulfilling and prosperous future.
When familial hopes and martial promises are amalgamated, everyone’s role in the supposedly harmonious union seems unequivocally defined. Spanish playwright Federico García Lorca, on the other hand, challenged these very notions of collective stability and status quo in his 1932 rural tragedy, Blood Wedding.
A Groom (Gordon Hecht) and a Bride (Hailey Gillis) are to be wed after three years of courtship. The Bride’s Father (Oliver Dennis) is supportive of their decision, and hopes that she will bear him many children to work their land. The Groom’s Mother (Diane D’Aquila), however, is skeptical of the girl, and rightfully so. Through her Neighbour (Caroline Gillis), she discovers that the Bride was previously romantically involved with Leonardo Félix (Colin Palangio), the relative of a family who murdered her husband and older son. To make matters worse, it appears that the Bride and Félix still yearn for each other after all this time, despite the fact that she had witnessed his marriage to her cousin (Courtney Ch’ng Lancaster). What follows is a furious escalation to a promise, not of marriage, but of bloodshed.
Guillermo Verdecchia’s translation mostly retains the script’s poetic beauty, and the actors generally speak their lines in a perfervid and ruminative manner. Their excellent performances engage us in an exploration of human nature, which suggests that our actions may be as inevitable as Mother Nature herself, evidenced in the many references to the environment. I only wish that fewer colloquial English terms were used in order to stay true to the setting.
In a world characterized by established norms and preserved traditions, the themes of choice and deception are given prominence, and are masterfully acted out by Gillis and Palangio. The Bride lies to herself and everyone around her by choosing to marry the Groom just so she could forget about her true love, Félix. What I especially admire about Gillis’ portrayal is that, despite her manipulative acts, she isn’t malicious in the slightest. She cares what others will make of the situation, and would readily sacrifice her life to end this family feud.
Félix seems unlikable and even frightening at first with his churlish attitude towards his family, but Palangio’s pent up passion and heartfelt confession to the Bride makes us pity him in a way, given that he had nothing to do with the aforementioned murder. Their conflicting traits, and our opinions of them, show us that there are a multitude of dimensions within these characters.
My favorite performance was that of D’Aquila. The mother has much more power than she gives herself credit for, and is not afraid to speak her mind and stand by her views in a darkly humourous way.
Andrew Penner’s musical score blends Flamenco rhythms, raw folk ballads, and natural sound effects beautifully sung and performed live on stage mainly by Anna Atkinson (on violin) and Richard Lam (on guitar). They provide heavy atmosphere and allow for cinematic segues from one scene to the next.
Anahita Dehbonehie’s set and costumes are fittingly reminiscent of the rustic village lifestyle. I adore the stencil-like backdrop of trees and bushes used in the band section.
Lorca’s work is effective in presenting complicated images concerning humanity through pure simplicity. Blood Wedding is a ceremony that will tug at your heartstrings and ignite your inner musings.
Directed by Erin Brandenburg, Blood Wedding runs until April 9 at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts. For more information, visit http://soulpepper.ca/.