A headless dress form appears at the back of two rooms. This is what audiences saw at the beginning of Shaking the Tree Theatre’s production. Blood Wedding. The dress form features a long gown that appears to be made of white roses and blood red ornaments. Its “arms” (two horizontal poles also tipped in red) suggest severed hands.
This tableau comes not from playwright Federico García Lorca, but from the imagination of director/set designer Samantha Van Der Merwe, whose creative genius draws us into Lorca’s themes of forbidden love, fate, and oppression.
Lorca’s poetic script (translated from Spanish by Jo Clifford) pulses with vivid imagery as well as lush language that repeats rhythmically like waves in the ocean. The play also weaves in numerous songs, transporting the audience into a dark fantasy land with sleeping flowers, a weeping horse, and a vision of impending death that Van Der Merwe’s production makes as palpable as its velvet leaves and sharp thorns. pink.
Folkloric drama first performed in Madrid in 1933 Blood Wedding It tells the story of two men (Groom and Leonardo) who desire the same woman. Van Der Merwe describes their rivalry by placing the Groom (Rocco Weyer) in a gold room where he plays his guitar. As the music reaches its climax, the passionate Leonardo (Orlando Reyes Cabrera), sitting like a statue in a reddish-brown room opposite, suddenly jumps up and charges towards the back of the stage. The startling violence of his movement is a powerful symbol of his frustrated desire for his former love, the Bride (Olivia Mathews), who is engaged to be married to the Bridegroom.
Although Lorca’s script was peppered with detailed stage directions, such as the colors of the rooms, Van Der Merwe added her own touches, such as the dress form symbolizing the duality of a woman’s role in provincial Spanish society. Attracting men is a form of power, but after marriage it is the husbands who call the shots and the money, and the wives are left to play submissive roles from generation to generation.
This cycle is embodied in a scene where Leonardo’s Wife (Sammy Rat Rios) and his mother (Marilyn Stacey), simply referred to as “Mother-in-Law”, try to put the Wife’s young son to sleep by singing in their mournful and sweet voices. but Leonardo then woke the baby by yelling at his wife to shut up. His Wife and Mother-in-Law, both dressed in drab sage green outfits (designed by Paige A. Hanna), resignedly continue their plaintive lullaby as Leonardo rides his horse.
like the characters in Blood Wedding Living in socially conservative Spain of the 1930s and constantly telling others to be quiet, Lorca, a homosexual, had to hide his sexuality to avoid persecution. It’s telling that she writes about the plight of women like the Bride, who survives by keeping her fiery eyes down and hands folded and is later praised by other characters not for her talents but for being a “good girl.”
As her father (the deceptively cheerful Bobby Bermea) makes clear, even her emotions are not her own because she is a woman. While he negotiates his marriage like a tempting business deal, he orders his daughter to look happy about it.
But the Bride’s true desires cannot be ignored. The play turns into action when she and Leonardo escape together on his horse. Weyer, who has so far been incredibly cheerful and constantly smiling as the Bridegroom, transforms into a ravenous tiger ready to pounce on his prey, summoning a passion that equals, perhaps even surpasses, Reyes Cabrera’s Leonardo.
Soon the characters are gesturing to each other to start the chase, and then they’re telling us, the audience, “Follow the lanterns!” they beg. and join the hunt. This bold turn was so unexpected that my theater friend and I almost laughed with delight. But later its meaning took on another layer. Were we, the audience, playing a role in a tragedy that ultimately led to the deaths of two fictional characters? Was the production inviting us to ask whether we are participants in an oppressive and punitive society… not just in the play, but in our real lives as well?
In the second act, Blood Wedding It becomes increasingly fanciful, with three axe-wielding silver-faced lumberjacks walking through a gray forest with slow, dreamy movements, and a Beggar Woman (Jacqueline MacDonald) with long blackened fingers representing death. Like the entire production, the final scenes reveal Van Der Merwe’s poetic artistry, masterfully ensuring that Lorca’s classic tragedy brims with exciting and dangerous life.
LOOK: Blood Wedding Playing at Shaking the Tree Theatre, 823 SE Grant St., 503-235-0635, shakingthetree.com. Thursday-Saturday 19:30, Sunday 17:00, until 11 November. $10-45.