BWW Review: BLOOD WEDDING at The Williams Project

BWW Review: BLOOD WEDDING at The Williams Project
Reggie D. White and Brittain Ashford in
Blood Wedding by The Williams Project.
Photo Credit: Jeff Carpenter Photography

The Williams Project latest collaboration with Equinox Studios is the very ambitious production of Blood Wedding. The story by Frederico Garcia Lorca is a twist on doomed lovers who are prevented from marrying by their families. The English version is a translation by Langston Hughes and retains both the fiery passion of the original Spanish and the poetic language of forbidden love. Equinox Studios invites the audience in to witness the story as part of the crowd.

The story begins with introductions to two families that have history, bad history. While we are not privy to the details, we know that the antagonism was sufficient to end the engagement of our current bride to Leonardo. Leonardo was forced to marry someone else and even has a son now. The bride is now on the verge of her own arranged marriage to please her family. Leonardo (with his wife) attends the wedding of this woman to whom he was previously betrothed. At first the bride tries to deny that she still has feelings for Leonardo, but the pull of first love is too strong, and they run off together. The rest of the wedding party sets out in search of the bride and Leonardo where love, revenge, and justice will all fight for supremacy.

The cast is a tight group of eight. David Samuel (Leonardo) carried himself with such inner smoldering that you knew he would ignite at some point. Tangela Large (Mother) carried the weight of the world on her capable shoulders. With little ability to control the events of her life, her tears came "from the soles of her feet and the roots of her hair." When she screams into the night, it was the echo of the scream of every mother that has lost a child needlessly. Leicester Landon (Bridegroom) plays his character with a balance of naivety and strength. You watch his self-deception as he convinces himself that his bride loves him. You want things to turn out well for him, and that is due to Landon making his character so likeable. Mia Ellis as the bride is hypnotically beautiful. One part victim and one part accomplice, Ellis brings this complicated character to life. Rebecca Gibel (servant, Death) lends her gorgeous voice to her supporting characters. Oh how I wish Death had one last song as she stood overhead at the final scene. Reggie D. White (mother-in-law, Moon) was a scene-stealer throughout the show. His witty eyes, fearless dancing, and stoic, methodical presence were a treat to watch. Max Rosenak (neighbor, Father) was the spoon that stirred all the others with their conflicting emotions and intentions. While his character might be overlooked by some, the subtleties of his machinations are not to be missed. Finally Brittain Ashford (Wife) is simply brilliant. She is heart-breakingly honest in a story where most are hiding something. Although she is the only one who reads the situation for what it is, she is helpless to change the outcome. Her grief and anger and the end of Act I are palpable.

The musicians, The Thoughts, are perfect choice for the show. They appear and disappear with phantom-like ease. Their music often provides a soft background, but also rises with emotion and fits the narrative in a symbiotic way. Ian Williams and Kate Mosehauer are both magical. I would also like to give props to the costume designer, especially for the magical wedding gown that was surprising and yet perfect. However, the costumer must be pulling double duty on the production staff as it is not listed separately. So kudos to whoever you are.

The production of Blood Wedding is divided into three parts. In the first part, you are invited to meet the two families by watching scenes that happen simultaneously in different locations. The scenes are performed more than once, and you can choose which family to meet first. The rest of Act I takes places in a larger space where you are seated as guests at the wedding. The wedding reception is lively and a flurry of activity while the Bride stands motionless on a platform in the center. The dark pull of inevitability has attached itself from Leonardo's eyes to the Bride's very soul. The party continues in motion, but they are at a precipice and choose to jump. By this point, the audience is hooked whether they are rooting for Leonardo and the Bride to escape or for the Bridegroom to regain his Bride. We were all mesmerized to watch the conclusion. That is why it was doubly painful to deal with the uptick of air traffic overhead which continued to drown out the words of the actors. Even worse, Act II was in a different location, and the audience was recommended to view it standing. Some seating was offered to those who could not stand for the 20-25 minutes of the second act, but the production staff failed to plan or designate where the standing audience should be. I think the idea was that the audience was to become mob-like and follow the action and move through the space. What happened in reality is that people stood directly in front of the poor folks sitting in chairs. Many did follow a character to the end of the space (where there was an enticing fire) but got stuck in that spot behind a large metal container that blocked their sightlines to the rest of the action. There was a cool concept that depicts the spread of blood into the river. Unfortunately, this visual effect blocked people from getting to the one spot where they might have been able to watch the remainder of the show and actually be able to see it. During the final scene when the Bride confronts Mother, I could neither see nor hear what was happening. Another woman turned to me and asked what happened. No one near me knew. She might have killed her. She might have left her to commit suicide. She might not have died at all. I wish I knew. There are multiple endings to this play, and I cannot say with certainty which one was performed. Unfortunately, the concept was defeated by reality. Up until the last ten minutes I was enraptured, but then just frustrated and disappointed. I'm sure others in a different spot had a different experience, and others might have had an even worse experience. In the end theater is about telling a story, and being able to see and hear are a baseline that cannot be ignored even for shows that are developmental workshops such as Blood Wedding. I hope they make some adjustments so that everyone who attends is able to enjoy the full experience of what I trust is a great show.

Blood Wedding is playing now through August 5th at Equinox Studios. For more information or tickets, contact TheWilliamsProject.org.

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From This Author Kelly Rogers Flynt

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