We don't get nearly enough chances to see the plays of Federico García Lorca, so it's to Shotgun Players' credit that they're kicking off their sixteenth season with the Spanish poet's 1933 Blood Wedding in an English translation by Michael Dewell and Carmen Zapata.
One reason Lorca's plays are rarely staged is that they're difficult to pull off. Written largely in poetic declarations, the dialogue isn't at all naturalistic, and the characters are more archetypes than personalities; it's a delicate balance not to make them cartoonish. Erin Gilley and Ryan O'Donnell aptly embody the nervous bride and groom (despite Gilley's distracting wig), but the portrayal of romantic rival Leonardo (the only character with a name) by John-Paul Goorjian is pure soap-opera melodrama.
The play starts at too high a pitch, with the groom's mother (Scarlett Hepworth) practically howling about all the bloodshed in her family. Thus, it takes a while to get involved in the action. There are effective scenes early on, such as a funny bit of one-upmanship in which the groom's mother and the bride's father (Robert Mercer) brag about their children's virtues, but there's also a lot of confusion.
Part of the problem is the many distractions, especially the rest of the cast seated onstage as a rowdy audience laughing, gasping, and murmuring until you want to shush them. As the theme of Evren Odcikin's production is flamenco, characters enter with a single sharp stomp, and scene changes commence with chairs slammed onto the floor. Though David McLean's near-omnipresent flamenco guitar enriches the staging, sometimes the ensemble has to shout to be heard.
The stylized staging works much better in the second act, which might be called the "blood" section as opposed to the "wedding" part. Whereas the celebration and foreboding of the first act walks the line between ritualistic and stilted, there's a mythic weight to the manhunt led by the bloodthirsty moon (embodied commandingly by Dawn Scott, who also has a touching turn as Leonardo's wife) and to the tragedy and mourning that follows. The fact that the peanut gallery is absent for the latter half doesn't exactly hurt, either.
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