Love, betrayal, vengeance, and death are the themes of Federico García Lorca’s BLOOD WEDDING, a Spanish Symbolist tragedy inspired by a newspaper account of an actual wedding that ended horrifically in Almería’s Cortijo del Fraile in 1928. In the eerie fatalist drama, a young bride flees from her wedding celebration with her married former love, a son of the enemy Felix family who killed her father and brother. The reckless act of mad love—a rebellion against the rigid constraints of bloodline vendettas (à la Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet) and gender roles in rural Spanish society—incites a shocking crime of passion as foretold by the inescapable forces of nature (personifications of the moon and death, which takes the form of a beggar).
The current co-production of the rarely seen play, by the Philadelphia Artists’ Collective and the Mandell Professionals in Residence Project at Drexel University, is infused with live music that sets the mood and locale, and restores the poetic rhythms of Garcia Lorca’s language, which inevitably loses something in its translation from Spanish to English. The evening begins in the lobby with a pre-show of flamenco music and dance (choreographed by Elba Hevia y Vaca and performed by members of Pasión y Arte), a cultural leitmotiv employed throughout director Damon Bonetti’s imaginative staging. Bonetti has also set some of the dialogue (and an independent poem by Garcia Lorca, with which he prefaces the story and introduces the prophetic figures of the moon and death—here with gender-reversed casting) to foreboding and melancholic original music by Christopher Colucci that evokes the play’s nightmarish sensibility and will haunt you long after you’ve left the building.
Bonetti’s design team has reconfigured the Mandell’s large-scale theater and proscenium stage into an intimate space, giving the audience a more immersive experience with the sizeable 21-person ensemble. Matthew Campbell’s rustic set references architectural elements from the real-life site of the 1928 wedding on which the play was based, and saturated color lighting by Dominic Chacon visualizes the playwright’s stunning symbolic imagery (García Lorca’s script assigned a specific color to each scene and character).
This collaboration between the PAC and Drexel gives students the opportunity to work with seasoned professionals, introducing undergraduates to the full process of creating live theater. Here they can hone their talents, appear in age-appropriate roles alongside veteran actors (including J Hernandez, Eric Scotolati, and Victoria Rose Bonito, who star as the ill-fated love triangle), and serve in such essential behind-the-scenes positions as stage manager and props master. In exchange, the company receives administrative and production support, including the use of the university’s theater and costume shop. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship, with the arts and education working hand-in-hand. [Mandell Theater, Drexel University, 33rd and Chestnut streets] November 6-23, 2014; philartistscollective.org.