Review: “Blood Wedding”

Opened Friday, March 23, 2007 at the Ashby Stage

Shotgun’s Blood Wedding looks, sounds great
2 [1/2] stars In cold Blood

Music and passion are always in fashion at the Copa…Oh, wait this is a different kind of music and passion.

Or at least it should be.

Federico Garcia Lorca’s Blood Wedding, the tangled love story of a bride, her groom and her true love, is a whole lot more passionate and poetic than Barry Manilow’s “Copacabana,” the tangled love story of Tony, Lola and Rico.

But the current Shotgun Players production now at the Ashby Stage in Berkeley is missing a few key pieces that might otherwise separate poetry from pop.
What’s good about director Evren Odcikin’s production is very good.

Kate Boyd’s simple, graceful set — a stucco arch and a variety of wooden chairs — is gorgeous and effectively lit by Jarrod Fischer.

The starkness of the stage is appropriate to Lorca’s 1932 tale of a small rural town in Spain, where a wealthy widow (Scarlett Hepworth) is about to see her only surviving son (Ryan O’Donnell, below left) enter into marriage with the daughter (Erin Gilley) of the town’s other wealthy family.

Such a convenient, economically agreeable marriage is bound to falter, and sure enough, the bride has other ideas. Turns out her heart beats for another man: Leonardo (John-Paul Goorjian, far right).

Though married to the bride’s cousin (Dawn Scott), Leonardo is equally hot for his cousin-in-law.

As the town gathers for the wedding, the wedding party seems to be a bride short. In true swashbuckling fashion, Leonardo has whisked the bride away, and they’re off into the night, heading into a life of forbidden love.

But Lorca is a dramatic poet, not a swashbuckler. When his lovers run away, the moon (Scott again) sings a somber song, and death — in the form of Patricia Miller as beggar — pursues them along with a search party from the town.

Much has been made of this being the “flamenco” production of Blood Wedding. Guitarist David McLean and choreographer Yaelisa collaborated on a live solo guitar score (thrillingly played by McLean), but there is precious little dancing.

Scenes often begin with a stomp or some other loud noisemaking, much the way you might begin a dance. The promise of dance is there, but not enough actual moves.

The notion that dance could ratchet up the drama’s ferocity comes into play during the duel between the groom and his rival. O’Donnell and Goorjian, knives in hand, spar in exaggerated, dance-like moves (Dave Maier is the fight consultant) that is surprising in its effect.

This does not look like a real fight, nor does it seem either man will be seriously injured, but the outcome inspires gasps because the execution has been so visceral.

Odcikin’s swift, nearly two-hour production could use more moments like this one.

Performances are all over the place, which makes it hard for the passionate intensity — which this play desperately needs — to build to the near operatic heights required by the script.

Hepworth as the groom’s dour, life-hardened mother, has some powerful moments, as do Gilley and O’Donnell. But the best performance comes from Scott, as Leonardo’s spurned wife and as the foreboding moon.

Perhaps Scott is able to register more than her colleagues because she gets to sing several lovely, intricate songs, and the music — including McLean’s evocative underscore — does more to convey love and despair than anything else in the show.

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