Audience witnesses the unexpected at “Blood Wedding”


Jake Tully

Getting back into a season of theater isn’t always easy, but it’s certainly much less of a hardship when something as provocative and engaging as Blood Wedding serves as the inaugural show for California State University Northridge’s fall theater program.

Highly appropriate for the season, the production of Blood Wedding at CSUN was a somber and haunting play that reflects the melancholia of autumn and the disparity in the loss that comes with the end of another passing year.

“I was already sold before the light even went down,” said Kay Adams, Granada Hills resident. “I wanted to reach out and touch the set, it was seriously hard not to.”

Though described as experimental and unconventional theater, CSUN’s opening night of Blood Wedding drew out a crowd of gussied up students and members of the community, eager to see the play as they lined up outside of the Valley Performing Arts Center. The patrons were eagerly discussing the subject material of the play and it’s author, Frederico Lorca, as the CSUN theater team prepared for the onslaught on ticket-holders.

Those in the front row often got the most enriched experience from the performance, sometimes even brushing up against the characters as they prowled about offstage. When any action or terror would arise, there was an absolute and terrified visceral reaction from the front row, eliciting audible gasps and even causing one of the patrons to jump out of his seat.

“Even though I found myself confused, I was just so into it,” said CSUN alum Joseph Lorenzo. “I didn’t even realize that I jumped up. I couldn’t take my eyes off of it.”

Though director Chris Anthony described the experience of Blood Wedding as one that is abstract and experimental, it wasn’t nearly as non-traditional as one might expect. All of the usual elements of traditional theater were present, and the narrative lent itself to sensible cohesion. Blood Wedding was otherwise a swift acting drama, but not one that was difficult to follow or that lent itself to a state of disarray.

The black box theater turned away theatergoers within minutes of opening its doors, having exceeded its capacity with eager ticket-holders shortly after 7 p.m., according to the theatre company.

The show, which is an adaptation of Lorca’s piece from 1933, is a surrealist look at loss, murder, romance, and tragedy. Staged on a set inspired by a turn of the century Spanish Villa, the show was not only intimate but also had an innate visual engagement with the audience. The masterfully crafted set conveyed a sense of dread even before the actors took to the stage, setting the tone for the evening to come.

The ensuing play was a flurry of 90 minutes without break for intermission. The play starts off at a breakneck pace, to seemingly never slow down throughout. Following the lives of a widowed mother, a newlywed couple married under duress, and star crossed lovers, the play was rife with tension and drama that was often uncomfortably synonymous to real life. More times than not the crowd grimaced at monologues about death and loss, while others in the theater found it difficult to maintain eye contact with an actor who professed their will to die.

The acting was superb, from leads Arturo Arcos and Alix Ober to the ensemble cast. Despite the dour nature of the play, there are quite a few moments of hilarity in the script. The audience reeled at any humor that came their way, knee-slapping and elbowing ribs in order to create some levity in the otherwise serious atmosphere.

At some points, Blood Wedding even verged on the side of Shakespearean, evoking a style similar to that of Macbeth. Neither Lorca’s work nor Anthony’s stage direction was so unfamiliar that it was at any point alienating the crowd.

The only truly surreal aspect of the play was between scene changes wherein the actors would move about on stage making agonizing noises and moving about in a surreal, trance-like state. This aspect of the program seemed so incongruous to the rest of the play that it was almost difficult to sit through – and not for its evocation of discomfort. Rather, it just seemed superfluous and impeded on the flow.

For the crowd unfamiliar or inexperienced with theater, Blood Wedding was an innocuous and palpable treat. Perhaps with more knowledge of the stage and familiarity with the work would enhance one’s experience, but given the conversations prior to the play, it seemed that the audience mostly had just that.

Blood Wedding runs the weekend of September 18 – 20 and 25 – 27 at the Experimental Theatre at the VPAC.