UVA Department of Drama Presents ‘Blood Wedding’
For the first half of the Spring semester, students at the UVA Department of Drama have been preparing for a performance of Melia Benussen’s adaptation of Langston Hughes’ translation of Federico Garcia Lorca’s play, Blood Wedding.
Lorca’s play is a work of universal cultural significance. Mysteriously enchanting, we follow the story of an ill-fated love triangle in the 20th Century Spanish countryside. The work plays on our uncertainty, terrifying us by its secrecy and the enigma of its characters, trapping us within and pressing us for resolution.
Opening in front of an illusive brick and mortar wall overwhelmed with vines, we discover the transformative roles of Boy and Mother, played by Jordan Maia and Chiquita Melvin, arguing about the capitalistic prospects offered by leaving home and purchasing land on the Spanish frontier.
The stage is at once oppressive, with the two confined to a box, their home, and the other members of the cast seated, in an assortment of chairs ranging from high-class oak to factory-made plastic, facing within, watching and judging—as if we, the audience, were watching another audience watch a play.
We feel the uncanny presence of the dead brother and husband on stage, and how they continue to influence Mother’s and Boy’s ideas about gender-specific duties and expectations.
It is essentially the demise of the father and brother that causes anxiety within Mother about the Boy’s departure to meet with his fiancé, Girl. Boy leaves to purchase clothes and presents while Mother is left at home.
The language of the play is modern, yet elliptical. Often, things spoken are not entirely what they seem. Our character’s thoughts are often suppressed by ‘shut-up’s or ‘hush’s, or distracted by the subtle comedy cleverly interspersed.
Blood Wedding challenges many of the assumptions we have about tradition, and inspires critical thought about the moral implications of industrialization and economic expansion.
Questions about the purpose of marriage are inspired when Boy meets with Girl’s Father. In the men’s view, marriage serves an economic purpose: procreation to create a labor force. But Girl does not want to marry Boy, and is stifled by her filial duty to her father.
Girl in fact loves Leonardo, whose distant family was involved in the killing of Boy’s brother and Father, which inspires a universal feeling of hostility and alienation between the families.
Leonardo, the only character given a name, is a field worker, driven to hard labor to support his Wife and Child and Mother-in-Law. He is discontented with his inherent lifestyle and his family’s affliction with material possession.
Played by Kevin Minor, Leonardo presents a deeply passionate, yet unpredictable man in the world, possessed by the conflicting perspectives revolving around him. Leonardo is the only person given a name because he is the only person who has developed character.
The other characters in Blood Wedding are dynamic representations of opposing economic, moral, and spiritual perspectives from the Spanish countryside in the 20th century, all converging on stage to create a realistic representation of the progress of universal human values.
Desires for wealth and traditional hetero-normative thoughts are disturbingly present in Jordan Maia’s performance of the Boy, certainly in his interactions with Mother and Girl throughout the cryptic Wedding affair.
From the Servant, played by Alisa Ledyard, we find femininity, urging for expression. Yet, she too is stifled by conservative female thought, often defined by the male characters on stage.
Males are also defined by the women on stage, provided by Mother’s perspective on her late husband: strong, unwavering, and resolute in the face of opposition, qualities which lead him to a swifter death.
Leading to Blood Wedding’s chilling climax, we are confronted with divine forces in unexpected mediums, and are compelled to determine how much of a role humankind has in determining its own fate.
Visually and sonically, the play is well executed and terrifying. We get a dynamic sense of characters’ behaviors as they interact throughout scenes, and the range of emotions explored is immense and overwhelming.
As viewers, we must remain vigilant and critical of the illusory techniques employed in the dialogue of Blood Wedding, and develop an especially keen ear to the many assumptions and expectations about societal roles presented in its intricate performance.
UVA’s Department of Drama does the play’s translation’s adaption more than justice. Their work is cohesive and reflects a deep chemistry among the diverse cast. The directorial staff and actors have demonstrated a passion to bringing life to Blood Wedding, and do so with subtlety and bouts of exhilaration.
See Blood Wedding for its final performance on March 2nd at 8PM in the Culbreth Theater. Student-pricing tickets available at drama.virginia.edu/stage.
AJ Bakhtari is a second-year who brings his own popped-corn to the movies.