Chicago Theater Review: BLOOD WEDDING (Lookingglass Theatre Company)

Post image for Chicago Theater Review: BLOOD WEDDING (Lookingglass Theatre Company)

by Lawrence Bommer on March 13, 2016

in Theater-Chicago


Elemental, darkly poetic, driven by death, Federico Garcia Lorca’s domestic tragedy Blood Wedding is the 1932 installment of his peasant-primitive “Rural Trilogy.” (The others are Yerma, about a woman’s desperation to be fecund, and The House of Bernarda Alba, a claustrophobic saga of sexual repression.) An open homosexual later murdered by Franco’s goons, Lorca depicts a marriage destroyed before it could begin. It’s a tabloid-lurid tale, raw but never realistic, and drenched in its title blood. Performed to a translation by Michael Dewell and Carmen Zapata, Lookingglass Theatre Company’s Depression-era version, set in John Steinbeck’s Central Valley, is ritualistically mannered and elaborately doomed.

Wendy Mateo, Kevin Viol, Sophia Michelle Bastounes, Troy West, Bubba Weiler

Set designer/director Daniel Ostling’s two-hour, three-act treatment gets drunk on Lorca’s fateful verse. This earth-toned, barebones presentation all but dances to surreal pictures of a hunting moon that wields a hatchet and exposes fugitives, orange blossoms that invite infidelity, and, above all, blood or its absence (“Better to be dead with no blood than blood that is festering”). Played against Ostling’s grim clapboard façade, it’s a dream-like pageant where the arranged liaison between a proud California family of vintners and a struggling one of hemp-growers founders when a past passion erupts again.

Kareem Bandealy, Helen SadlerThe generically named Bridegroom (Chance Bone) is to marry the 22-year-old Bride (Helen Sadler), despite a looming threat: She remains in thrall to her once and future lover Leonardo (Kareem Bandealy). (Well, his horse was seen and heard near her farmstead.) This triangle fuels the fears of the groom’s proud, harsh, and rigid mother (Christine Mary Dunford), terrified of the loneliness that awaits her; Leonardo’s “tossed aside” wife and cousin to the bride (Atra Asdou); and the Bride’s protective and vengeful father (Troy West), his rage a force of nature. A hapless neighbor (Eva Barr) and clueless villagers (Sophia Michelle Bastounes, Wendy Mateo, Melisa Pereyra, Kevin Viol and Bubba Weiler) are caught up in a nuptial betrayal that triggers a moonlit chase and a homoerotic duel.

Helen Sadler, Chance Bone, Wendy Mateo, Melisa Pereyra, Troy West, Kevin Viol

Accompanied by Rick Sims’ disconcertingly celebratory songs, a hoedown, and sad laments, the story is propelled as much by Lorca’s urgent imagery as by its unstoppable vendetta. It’s also haunted by its own look: A piano suspended above the stage suggests a fiesta gone toxic, moonbeams are caught in buckets, and a trap door opens to reveal a lunar pit. With a huge white shroud as a bright backdrop (TJ Gerckens, lights) and dark mourning dresses (Mara Blumenfeld, costumes) in cunning contrast, the final scene of women’s grief sears and burns as much as anything in The Trojan Women or Eugene O’Neill.

Chance Bone, Helen Sadler, Eva Barr

Blood Wedding is as implacable and inevitable as lethal legends can wax. Ostling’s dozen actors bring American grit to a Spanish nightmare. For some theatergoers, the intricately rhapsodic dialogue and emotional outbursts will seem abstract and stylized for what’s, sadly and simply, an ugly scandal. But Lookingglass’s labor of lust perfectly pits tradition against instinct, religion against reality, and life against death. Guess what wins.

Christine Mary Dunford, Chance Bone

photos by Liz Lauren

(front) Christine Mary Dunford, Helen Sadler (back) Chance Bone, Troy West, Eva Barr

Blood Wedding
Lookingglass Theatre Company
Water Tower Water Works
821 N. Michigan Ave.
ends on April 24, 2016
for tickets, call 312.337.0665 or visit Lookingglass

for more Chicago Theater info, visit Theatre in Chicago

Leave a Comment