Los Angeles Theater Review: BLOOD WEDDING (Odyssey Theatre)

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by Tony Frankel on July 28, 2011

in Theater-Los Angeles


In his vision of a new translation of Frederico Garcia Lorca’s Blood Wedding, director Jon Lawrence Rivera offers a diverse cast and updates the original 1933 setting in Spain to 1952 in Central California. But neither decision has helped to shed new light on either the playwright or his play about a bride who runs off with a former lover on her wedding night. Lorca is a poet, a musician and a surrealist (in fact, the sets to his first full-length play were designed by Salvador Dalí), but Tanya Ronder’s 2005 English translation is clunky, disharmonious, and prosaic (her 2009 adaptation of Peter Pan was also colorless and drab).

Blood Wedding - Odyssey Theatre Los AngelesLorca’s plays resemble Greek tragedies in their examination of tragic flaws, death, the woman’s place in society and a person’s relationship to social order and nature (the Gods). It is no wonder that Blood Wedding has been translated to a dance film and twice into an opera, as Lorca is known for fusing poetry with drama in such a way that it heightens the human experience, all the while combining elements of the romantic history play. As such, his scripts work best when the performances are earthy and dark with a sense of restrained melodrama.

Rivera’s cast is not only disparate in color (Japanese, Caucasian, Filipino, etc.), but, sadly, in style. From naturalistic to histrionic to floundering to flat to overwrought, his actors lack a centralized method, which is essential to pulling off Lorca. There are unwarranted mannerisms and a deficiency in both listening and organic reactions. Plus, the role of The Servant Woman has been handed to a man – when he touts the strengths of a great male lover, his flamboyant writhing may elicit some chuckles from the audience, but his open gayness comes off as incongruous for 1952. (Also jarring is that when one character screams for a horse, another throws him the keys to a motorcycle.)

Blood Wedding - Odyssey Theatre Los AngelesRivera’s greatest strength lies in his visuals and the beautifully choreographed changes on John H. Binkley’s astounding set of geometrical formations, but as with The Sonneteer and bonded, the ubiquitous director remains challenged when it comes to a uniformity of style with his actors.

This production of Blood Wedding may also cast light on the subject of diverse casting for the theater: The decision to cast a show based on the color of one’s skin worked terrifically for Hello, Dolly! with Pearl Bailey, but political correctness has no place in the theater when a playwright such as Lorca is being produced. I believe that Mr. Rivera desired a multi-cultural cast, but that ultimately hindered him and led to the contrasting performance styles. Actors should not be hired based solely on the color of their skin, but also on their ability to handle poetry, their capacity to create a unique persona, and, above all, on the content of their character.

Blood Wedding - Odyssey Theatre Los Angeles

photos by Enci

Blood Wedding
Odyssey Theatre Ensemble
2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd. in West L.A.
Wed-Sat at 8; Sun at 2 (check for exceptions)
ends on August 14, 2011
for tickets, call 310.477.2055 visit Odyssey Theatre

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