Over the past few years Constellation Theatre Company has made its name staging ambitious productions of old plays, and stunning you with a terrific acting ensemble and a spectacular design team. The plucky nonprofit theater is set to do it again this spring, with a production of Mary Zimmerman’s play Metamorphoses. The company is even raising money to build a reflecting pool for this Greek-inspired extravaganza.
And right now, the company is staging a production of Federico García Lorca’s Blood Wedding. Once again, Constellation’s trusty crew of designers does splendid work. Who needs more than a square piece of floor for a stage? A.J. Guban can take you anywhere with his lights. But the acting ensemble isn’t as tight as normal. Worse, it’s exceedingly hard to warm to this dated story, making the whole thing seem a bit of a folly. Translated by British playwright Tanya Ronder, Lorca’s tale centers on a couple in love while the world conspires against them. Well, sort of. Mark Halpern is the Groom, giddy in love, but his Bride, played by Victoria Reinsel, is actually still in love with her previous fling Leonardo (Dylan Myers) — and Leonardo still yearns for her, too. Plus, it turns out Leonardo’s family has long feuded with the Groom’s family, the very reason his father is dead. So, you know, there’s bad fate all around.
Of course the play ends violently. It’s Spanish, after all, and in fact was written just a few years before Lorca himself was assassinated in 1936 during the bloody Spanish Civil War. In her director’s note, Shirley Serotsky asserts that the production ”will not focus on the Spanish-ness of this play,” and that Ronder’s translation ”feels simultaneously contemporary and timeless.” Both claims are hard to square with reality. Beyond the play’s bloody story that seems inherently Spanish, Mariano Vales was also tapped for this production to compose mournful, lilting guitar music — which, for the record, as played live by flamenco guitarist Behzad Habibzai is charmingly delicate — that really could come from no other region. Meanwhile, it’s true that people still murder and die for love. But something about this particular tale and how it plays out doesn’t seem all that contemporary.
Maybe part of the problem is that Myers plays Leonardo as unsympathetically as possible. He’s a man consumed by passion and rage, with no shade of tenderness, not even toward the woman he loves, the Bride. It makes it too hard for us to believe the Bride is actually in love with him — why would anyone love this monster? And the fact that Reinsel puts up such a fight complicates things further.
Here’s to a better stage transformation with the next show.