Kristin Hammargren, left, and Elizabeth Cassarino. The production of Federico García Lorca's play proves immensely satisfying.
Going to the theater is risky. Theater tickets are investments in the unknown. So often we leave our seats disappointed, thinking that a few pints would have been a better use of the night. Saturday night, as I headed into the strangely balmy air after University Theatre production of Blood Wedding (presented in Vilas Hall's Hemsley Theatre), I felt just the opposite. I was filled and inspired. This is what theater -- and any good art -- is supposed to do.
First produced in 1933, Federico García Lorca's Blood Wedding has a plot that's as old as, well, 1597. Two lovers, kept apart by familial tensions and the division of class, just can't seem to stay away from each other. To be fair, the story's a bit different from Romeo and Juliet, but it's impossible to resist calling the Bride and Leonardo star-crossed lovers. The simple, familiar plot serves mostly as a way to showcase Lorca's poetic language and symbolism.
Blood Wedding is an excellent reminder of the beauty of language, of how poetry is a part of us. "My dead are full of grass," says the Mother, played by a perfectly stony Susan Sweeney, "speechless, turned to dust; two men, my two geraniums in bloom." Images of light and dark flicker like shadows throughout the play as Lorca explores the way opposites fit together: rich and poor, the white of the moon and the darkness of death, and blood as a symbol of both life and death.
Blood Wedding is exceptionally well cast. The actors feel sure in their roles as if the show was written around them, and this assuredness allows Lorca's words to breathe on stage as if they're not just black ink on a page, but living things. This is an impressive first performance done by a new batch of MFA acting students.
As Leonardo, Santiago Sosa is magnetic. Simultaneously alluring and frightening, his portrayal thoroughly captivates the audience and, like the Bride, we love him even though we're not sure we want to -- we just can't help ourselves. His onstage chemistry with Kristin Hammargren, who plays the Bride, is palpable, and it's the relationship between the two that is the core of Blood Wedding.
Director Norma Saldivar turned the rhythms of flamenco into the pulse of this production. Not a surprising choice -- Lorca was captivated with the art form and fought to preserve it -- but it adds an effective dimension to the performance. Also successful is the stage design, a collage of movable white panels that can be moved or filled with light as needed. Walls are one of the themes in Blood Wedding and these panels make a fine parallel to the walls that close in on the characters.
At a runtime of just an hour and a half, Blood Wedding ends when it should. The decision to perform without an intermission was a good one. An intermission would have been fatal, interrupting the slow build that's crucial to this show.
Well done on all accounts, University Theatre's production of Federico García Lorca's Blood Wedding is immensely satisfying. Blood Wedding runs through December 5 at the Hemsley Theatre in Vilas Hall.