The air of rural Spain pours forth from the entire ensemble in this riveting production of Lorca's drama
Reviewed by Adam Roberts, Fri., Nov. 22, 2013
Mary Moody Northen Theatre, 3001 S. Congress, 512/448-8484
Through Nov. 24
Running time: 1 hr., 30 min.
The late, great poet-playwright Federico García Lorca has been quoted as asserting that "great art depends upon a vivid awareness of death, connection with a nation's soil, and an acknowledgment of the limitations of reason." Add to this fundamental aesthetic philosophy a solid troupe of players, outstanding direction, and a fine design team, and you get the production of Lorca's Blood Wedding, currently onstage at St. Edward's University.
One of the most beautiful aspects of Blood Wedding – and, purportedly, one of Lorca's greatest concerns when mounting the original production – is embodied in that "limitation of reason," the shifting ground between prose/realism and poetry/fantasy. In his staging, director Robert Tolaro melds the worlds of song, dance, and scene with an impressive fluidity, and his actors commit to the flamenco-style glue that binds these elements together with wholehearted zest. Senior Hannah Marie Fonder deserves special note for her masterfully nuanced personification of death that forebodes throughout the evening. If great art depends upon a vivid awareness of death, Fonder's performance as its harbinger contributes mightily to this production's success. Similarly outstanding work comes from Babs George and J. Ben Wolfe, who portray the Mother (of the Groom) and the Father of the Bride. The severity of George's striking Mother cuts as sharply through the thick air of Lorca's play as the knife her character so despises. Wolfe's characterization provides a gentle counterpoint to George's, creating dynamism between the two portrayals that is excellently balanced. As the Bridegroom and the Bride, Alec Esteban Cudmore and Anna Schultz turn in similarly fine, complementary characterizations. I would be remiss not to mention the work of Matthew Webb, whose superb lighting design here not only provides a feast for the eyes, but also serves to illuminate – literally – the joining of elements real and fantastic. One scene in particular stands out, wherein splotches of radiant color canvas the entire stage floor. It's a moment worthy of a top-notch design portfolio.
Blood Wedding represents one third of what critics often refer to as Lorca's "Rural Trilogy." The connection with his nation's soil is especially palpable in the playwright's works, and not least so here. Folkloric imagery abounds in the design and movement work, excellent music (composed collaboratively by Brittany Allyson, Dillon Ford, Jon Richardson, and Eric Swabey-Keith) provides the distinctive aural setting, and a dedication to evoking the air of rural Spain pours forth from the entire onstage ensemble. At every turn, MMNT's production of Blood Wedding attains the synergy necessary to pull off a riveting evening of theatre from all angles.
Blood Wedding, Austin theatre, Mary Mood Northen Theatre, St. Edward's University, Robert Tolaro, Hannah Marie Fonder, Babs George, J. Ben Wolfe, Alec Esteban Cudmore, Anna Schultz, Matthew Webb, Jon Richardson, Brittany Allyson, Dillon Ford, Eric Swabey-Keith