Courtesy of Sheryl Sinkow

October 3, 2016

Contemporary Sensibilities and Progression: Blood Wedding at Ithaca College

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Article updated. 

Even before the show begins, the set at the Clark Theatre in Dillingham Center of Ithaca College is striking — clean lines, neat delineations of space with blues and whites, and solid colors immediately give a modern tone to Blood Wedding, the famous tragedy of Spanish playwright Federico Garcia Lorca. Set in twentieth century rural Spain, Blood Wedding tells the story of an on-going curse of a family feud and deception as it explores the story and aftermath of a young woman who abandons her own wedding for her former lover. Though such a story could easily slip into the realm of cliché, the clean aesthetic and direction of Ithaca College’s “Blood Wedding” keeps the narrative fresh and enthralling.

Director Norm Johnson’s Blood Wedding remains contemporary in great part due to the set and costumes. The creative team (Scenic design: Emily Weisbecker; Costume design: Victoria Pizappi; Lighting and projection design: Steve TenEyck, assisted by Teddy Kosciuszek; Sound design: Don Tindall) does an incredible job with a nod to Lorca’s surrealist links — the look is simple but timeless. The clean lines of the set’s stairs and main components are clearly modern, but also simple such that the set’s backdrop remains incredibly versatile for the play’s purposes. A blue line of tiles runs down the middle of the stage, reminding the viewers of both Spanish tiles and of the rivers that thematically run through the play. The orange-dipped clothing of the cast is both stunning and meaningfully designed. Overall, the Blood Wedding of Ithaca College is incredibly visually appealing in a menagerie of light tones that belie that tragic nature of the play.

But the play is especially remarkable in its detailed nature. It is not just the props — the props of the stage seem fewer and simpler, though beautifully put together and complete. Rather, the details are in facial expressions of the characters, the minute movements of the cast and the positioning of the sounds which all add layers to the play. If you’re lucky enough to be in just the right spot to see the faces of the characters, the effect is incredible. Especially notable are the emotionally torn face of Leonardo Felix (played by Jose Useche), the former lover of the Bride (played by Veronica Ortiz), in his very first scene; the Mother’s (played by Caroline Maloney) wary and fearful expressions when only she seems to notice Death (played by Niamh O’Connor) at the apparently joyous wedding; and Death’s twitching and flickering eyes as she twists and turns on stage. Every movement of each chorus member also looks deliberate and carefully done, giving the stage a sense of fullness.

The progression of the play is fantastically reflected in the play through recurring themes and strong impressions left by the characters. In particular is the portrayal of the Mother of the Bridegroom (the Bridegroom played by Nicholas Byron). Although the play revolves around the wedding of the scandal created by the Bride, the Mother remains the pivotal character for the conflict of the piece in her remembrance of the deaths that resulted from the family feud with the Felix family, her skepticism of the Bride’s sincerity, and her hatred of the violence that runs rampant in the tale. Incredibly vocal, stern and staunch in her opinions, the Mother is by no means likeable (rather, none of the characters are). But she remains human and understandable, and the strong emotions that drive her forward in a life marked by death are amazingly expressed. As the story goes on, the Mother’s anxiety becomes even more palpable in her nervous questions and fury.

The Mother’s anxiety is justified and mirrored by the Beggar Woman who represents Death in the play. Again, the details are at work: Death is especially chilling and frightening when she is not speaking, but simply present on the stage, watching the characters in tight anticipation of what’s next to come. Chills run down backs as she twists and writhes, in sharp contrast to the dancing wedding guests. As the play goes on, she becomes increasingly decrepit, Death’s face seemingly rots more and more. By the end of the play, blood looks to be splattered on her face.
This change sweeps through the stage itself. While generally full of oranges and whites and blues, the stage is occasionally and increasingly washed in dark greys and crimsons as the tragedy unfolds. We see the blue tiles that turn into a red river; the background wash of light that turns redder and redder; and the resonance of the chorus echoing all around. The stage’s changes become an unstoppable force of nature that indicates a sort of inevitable fate in the tragedy that must unfold. The set’s evolving nature combined with energy and effort of the cast produces an incredibly lively and enthralling play. Building off of an already-acclaimed play, the crew at Ithaca College clearly makes the script of Blood Wedding completely their own—as their shows very often do — through a careful attention to detail, modern sensibilities and emotionally charged acting that charms and captivates the audience.

Blood Wedding will play five more times at the Clark Theatre in Dillingham Center from October 5 to 8.

Update: a previous version of this article did not mention Blood Wedding‘s creative team. 

Catherine Hwang is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected]