Review “Blood Wedding” (Lookingglass Theatre): Not Bloody Dramatic

1920x1200BW_AtraCenterV2flowerLookingglass Theatre presents BLOOD WEDDING.

Weddings are emotional. Two people pledging their loving devotion. Two families merging ancestral lines. In the best of circumstances, the pending permanency of the union makes for tense moments. Playwright Federico Garcia Lorca (translated by Michael Dewell and Carmen Zapata) pens a tale of marital amiss.

The telenovela opens with an unhappy Christine Mary Dunford (mother of the groom) berating Chance Bone (bridegroom) over his bride (Helen Sadler) selection.  Apparently, the bride used to date the family’s nemesis Leonardo (played by Kareem Bandealy). Leonardo’s family is responsible for the deaths of the groom’s father and brother.  A forceful Dunford questions Sadler’s suitability as Bone’s bride. A smitten Bone assures Dunford that Sadler is his true love.  Despite her strong reservations, Dunford visits the bride’s family where Sadler also insists she loves Bone. The families agree to a wedding.

Meanwhile, a brooding Bandealy is grappling with his own family issues.  His desperate wife (played by Atra Asdou) and suspicious mother-in-law (played by Wendy Mateo) question his whereabouts. Although Bandealy denies any trouble afoot, his obsession delivers him to Sadler’s room on the morning of her wedding.

This story is ripe for explosive drama.  I saw Game of Thrones’ “Red Wedding.” And this show has ‘Blood’ in the title. I’m ready for some epic conflict.  It never happens. Director and Scenic Designer Daniel Ostling stages this marital turmoil on a barren stage. The backdrop is this wooden wall fortress. As the wedding draws closer, the backdrop is split apart into two over-sized, crate-like bookends. Ostling paces this in three distinct acts.  At the start, the ensemble encircles the stage on chairs.  They mingle into the brewing drama by pouring water or singing along.  Sporadic folk music accompanies the story. It’s not so much musical numbers as performers going from talking to singing. The general prose itself is lyrical and might lend itself to song.  What doesn’t quite work is the inconsistency in singing ability of the performers and the musical selection for the drama.  Instead of aiding the tension of a love triangle or family feud, the music waters down the emotion. It’s not bodice-ripping or rage-invoking. It’s more like a campfire sing-along.

Aside from teeny glimpses of an all-consuming passion between Sadler and Bandealy, the production has a hollowness. I don’t have an emotional investment in this Wedding.  I feel like the +1 that doesn’t know anyone and is just waiting for the cake to be cut. Part of the issue is the rhythm of the storytelling. It starts and stops, starts and stops, starts and stops. The two hour+ show has limited scenery changes but has two intermissions.  As we are trying to connect to the drama, the act ends and its intermission. Although Act 1 and Act 2 end with dramatic flair into blackout, I think the show would have been better suited for a tight, fluid 90 minutes. During the second intermission, the crew suspends a piano in the air.  An intriguing feat that doesn’t prove necessary.  The third act is the most interesting visually with black costumes against a massive white shimmery tarp.  The imagery could be hauntingly memorable but I don’t know these people enough to care.

Running Time:  Two hours and ten minutes with two intermissions

At Lookingglass Theatre, 821 N. Michigan

Written by Federico Garcia Lorca

Translated by Michael Dewell and Carmen Zapata

Composed by Rick Sims

Directed by Daniel Ostling

Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays at 7:30pm

Saturdays, Sundays at 2pm

Additional performances at 2pm on March 24th, April 7th and 14th

Thru April 24th

Buy Tickets at www.lookingglasstheatre.org

 

For more information and reviews on Chicago theatre, visit Theater in Chicago.

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