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The Actors' Company production of Garcia Lorca's Blood Wedding is, as the former ventures of this group have led us to expect, careful and competent. But for some reason, this present effort fails to catch fire as it might.
The barrier between the production and real dramatic meaning was built by too much effort rather than too little. By trying too hard to be epic, the director misses small and thoughtful values Novel staging and the like is to be commended but it can't stand by itself. The presentation seems to lack a unifying mind behind it. Thus the actors seem all too often as if they were emoting for their own benefit, rather than reaching for a sense of action and reaction which would make the play come to life.
Blood Wedding is a very earthy story of love and blood feud coming into conflict and leading to resolution in suffering, bloodshed, and despair. The Bride is in love with a member of the family whose members have killed the father and brother of the Bridegroom. Torn with passion that can never lawfully be gratified, she runs away with her lover immediately after the wedding. The play marches on through to fulfilment and the threnody at the end with a note of inevitability, as if the poet felt that no one was to blame, but that everything had been ordained by fate.
Yet the play need not be so dour and melodramatic as Director Michael Kirby makes it. He has almost all of his characters bluster at each other from the moment the show begins. There are many scenes in which he rides roughshod over the poetry of the script. The small insights into character are one of Garcia Lorca's main assets as poet and play-wright, and by throwing them away he hamstrings the whole production. A bit of humor as well as more understanding and less frenetic acting would give the play vastly more verisimilitude, and in consequence make the tragedy more comprehensible.
For example, in the opening scene the mother is bidding the Bridegroom goodbye as he goes to the vineyards. She says, "Go on. You're too big for kisses. Give them to your wife." She pauses and says to herself "When she is your wife." Under Kirby's direction this comes out as sheer bombast.
In addition he has not paced the show very well. The wedding scene seems rushed and clumsy, the lyric recitation forced, pompous and overlong. His blocking, i.e., plotting of the actors' movements, seems often unhappy and imperceptive, but he suffers from the disadvantage of a very small acting area.
Jane Cronin as the Bridegroom's mother, one of the largest and most important parts in the show, tries too hard to be Sarah Bernhardt. In the process she forgets she is a woman and portraying a woman. Thus she misses the tenderness that must go with the hate that she must feel almost against her will. She captures little of the depth of soul or wisdom from suffering--"We want to hear the things that will hurt us"--that the script would seem to grant her. Richard Galvin as the Bridegroom seems slightly foppish in the part and his stage presence is at times lacking. John Heffernan is perhaps the best actor on the stage in the extremely difficult part as the lover of the Bride. As his wife, Roz Faber likewise shows superb comprehension of her role. Gloria DePiero plays a comely Bride, but she is guilty of extreme overacting at times. And Olympia Dukakis shows some sign of talent as the servant woman who acts almost as a classical chorus. However her Brookline accent detracts from her performance. Edward Zang gives a nice and largely unaffected performance as the Bride's father.
Perhaps the most artistically perfect part of the production is the superb guitar-playing of Gabor Szabo. Ester Small's costumes are appropriate and imaginative.
Charles Street's Blood Wedding remains an intriguing exercise in experimental drama. And if it proves somewhat less successful than their previous efforts--and surely every experiment can't be a success--it is still a highly competent and provocative production.
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