Flamenco music filled the spaces around me. The glow of soft red light cascaded down the curtain. Audience members of different ages and cultures wandered in. The curtain rose and I was enraptured for the duration of this incredible production.
Blood Wedding was written by Federico Garcia Lorca and, for this production, translated by Scoundrel & Scamp's own Elizabeth Falcón. The play encompasses the story of one family joining to another with all of its politics, heartache, and love. The Bridegroom, played by Sean Cronin, is to be wed to the Bride, played by Claire De La Vergne, but the bride is still in love with her past amor, Leonardo, played by Jeffrey Baden. A tragic love story follows.
The set, designed by Jason Jamerson, is beautifully designed with open walls and doorways. The hilly platform upstage contains the constant presence of figures representing nature, death, the moon and music. The figures move to form beautiful tableaus that serve as the perfect theatrical backdrop. The tableaus included live musicians, including a guitarist, who punctuates and underscores much of the action on the stage, and two vocalists/percussionists who fill the stage with authentic Spanish music and heart. The vocalizations of the tableau created flowing transitions between scenes.
The music, arranged by Melissa Alejandra Aguirre Fernandez, was one of my favorite parts of this show. It was powerful, meditative and cathartic. Its vitality made the music feel like a crucial member of the cast.
The costumes, designed by Maria Caprile, were stunning. Most performers wore a variety of shades of brown, and off-white, while Mother of the Bridegroom, Bride, Bridegroom, and Leonardo wore blacks, whites, and greys. The sparse pops of red in the props and costuming were balanced and predicted the essence of death and danger.
The diversity of the cast in gender, age, and culture gave this show power in terms of authenticity and richness. This is the casting I want to see in every show, regardless of cultural point of view. The world is diverse, our art should be as well. When we see ourselves, we connect to deeper meanings and truths. We have a mirror to look more intimately into our own humanity, instead of just observing the humanity of others from the outside.
The performances, directed by Bryan Falcón, were effective as a whole. At times, some of performers would use an accent, and others not. Sometimes a British overtone, sometimes Spanish. Sometimes odd diction, sometimes not. I found this a little off-putting, but not so much that I couldn't enjoy the beautiful performances behind the words. The delivery was often overly dramatic in a way that the language demanded.
I have to call out the performances of three individuals: Adrian Encinas, as The Moon; Leora Sapon-Sevin as Death; and De La Vergne. Encinas and Sapon-Sevin were creepy and spectacular. They used their bodies to create shapes of darkness and light. They used their voices to create silence, anger, pain and delight. De La Vergne was a glorious revelation throughout. Her pain became my pain. Her strength, my strength. Her love, her loss—mine. Her final exchange with the Bridegroom's mother, played elegantly by Susan Arnold, was inspired and powerful. As a director, I wanted to cast her; as an actor, I wanted to be her; as a human being, I wanted to hug her. I can't wait to see so much more from De La Vergne.
The women in this play have unexpected agency. The Bride makes choices that lead her along a dark path. She is neither commanded by her father, carried away by her lover, nor controlled by her betrothed. In the end, it is the women who hold the space for love and grief. It is the women who commune to overcome aggression with emotion. It is the women who call out in their anger and sadness. It is the women who bravely water the earth with their tears.
Please go see this show. Allow the visual feast of diversity in music and humanity to transport you to that place where poetry and inclusion and love mean everything.
A longer version of this review can be found at tamingofthereview.com, a female-led, local, diverse, and community-oriented collective dedicated to coverage of Tucson theatre.