There is nothing onstage but a knife thrust firmly into the center of a stump of wood. This is how Blood Wedding (Bodas de sangre), a tragedy written by Spanish dramatist Federico García Lorca, first greets its audience: by confronting them with the possibility of threat. While the knife is never actually used, the thought is planted there from the very beginning, characterizing the theater department’s production of Blood Wedding, which ran this past weekend on the CenterStage at the ’62 Center for Theatre and Dance. It is the thought of violence latent, and not the act of violence itself, that carries the production faithfully.
In the narrative of the play, the Groom first announces to his Mother (Paige Peterkin ’16) his intention to marry the Bride (Mia Hull ’17), having courted her for three years. However, the Neighbor (Bailey Edwards ’16) soon reveals to the Groom’s Mother that the Bride was previously involved with a man named Leonardo Felix, a relative of the men who killed the Mother’s husband and eldest son. Leonardo is now in a loveless marriage with the Bride’s cousin (Sarah Pier ’16), and he runs away with the Bride on the night of her wedding. Death (Michael Druker ’17) and the Moon (Petra Mijanovic ’16) both foretell that blood will be split, and Leonardo and the Groom eventually kill each other.
As the names of the characters suggest, the play is largely a stylized and symbolic story, where characters stand in for social roles and social roles become characters. Leonardo, the only character who actually has a name, is also unique in this production due to the choice of casting. Venson Williams ’16 and Jackson Zerkle ’17 alternated between the roles of Groom and Leonardo in each production, reflecting the vision that the show’s director, Visiting Lecturer in Theatre Kameron Steele, had in mind to express the bipolar nature of the play.
Steele’s vision was also reflected in the stage design, an unusually long and asymmetrical set that bisected the CenterStage’s space lengthwise. The set was mostly sparse, with a few ingeniously placed trapdoors. Much of one end of the stage was swathed in white, bringing to mind the suspense of a bridal veil, but also the sepulchral alienation of a death shroud. The ends of the stage represented the two extremes of human experience, with most of the action taking place, as in life, in between both ends. The stage also bifurcated the audience’s experience, creating a split perspective by dividing seating into two sides. The length of the stage prominently grounded moments of visual intent, such as when the Groom’s Mother first advances onto the stage, locking her gaze onto the knife in the center. Such emphasis on visual connection and physical space becomes even more poignant in their absence, as when the Bride and the Groom look skyward, instead of into each other’s eyes, while speaking in anticipation of their upcoming nuptials.
A touch of warmth was added courtesy of the director’s own daughters, who flitted in and out as a part of the diegetic action or just to scatter rose petals liberally over the stage, in some instances over audience members. The play was also cheered by moments of easy comedy, such as when the Maid (Carina Zox ’16) inched her way around the edge of the stage, buckling under the weight of the Groom’s gifts, or when the Groom professed his love for the Bride with his mouth full, having availed himself of refreshments at an inopportune moment.
“With their arms around each other, they rode off like a shooting star.” This is the announcement that stuns the entire wedding party and ends the festivities with alacrity. Taken out of context, the artless lyricism of Lorca’s descriptions seems to point to an entirely different version of Blood Wedding, by romanticizing the subtext of violence through figurative language. This production successfully negotiated the divergence between the two, a production of magical realism that attends closely to the dissonance between the psychological darkness of the narrative and the cruel beauty of Lorca’s language.