Also see Richard's review of Tommy
Michael James Reed gives a heartfelt performance as the groom, in a marriage to a girl with a troubled past (Julie Layton). Meanwhile, his mother, played with fearless gothic intensity by Elizabeth Ann Townsend, cannot disentangle herself from the memory of a feud with another Spanish ranching clan, whose son once wooed Ms. Layton's character. Between the two women, dark conviction and unspeakable remorse propel the first half.
Ms. Layton white-knuckles it all the way from the return of her old flame right up to the wedding night. In between, her maidservant (the magical Linda Kennedy) pumps excitement into the upcoming ceremony and, thanks to her (and the beautiful Spanish guitar work of Lliam Christy), we get a glimpse of the joy that marriage should hold. It's also worth noting that a soft, dreamy musical under-score, like we have here, is a familiar element in weaving the spell in an Upstream Theatre show.
J. Samuel Davis smolders as the mysterious lover, a hard-driving cowboy. And Kelsea Victoria McLean is the girl he settled for (she also happens to be the sister of Ms. Layton's character). He stalks his way back into the bride's life on keening spurs, bearing with him all the romance this introspective story needs to catch fire.
The play becomes lyrical, fueled by frustrated love, as you might expect of Lorca (the poet inspired by gypsy ballads). It morphs into a balletic war of family histories and the symbolism of love as nearly half of the characters seem to spread their destructive passion to the few innocents who are left. And if you don't think all of that can be worked into genuine primal magic in a black-box theater with just a handful of actors, you'll be missing a great night of theater. Ms. Kennedy changes roles to become a strange, seductive spirit in the night, conspiring with Peter Mayer as a searing moon- god. And, once again, director Philip Boehm combines all this roiling dread and desire, turning it into something beautiful and savage, poetic and profane.
Translated by Langston Hughes and adapted by Melia Bensussen, Blood Wedding continues through October 23, 2011, at the Kranzberg Arts Center, 501 N. Grand Ave., a block south of the Fox Theater (about five blocks north of Interstate 64) in midtown St. Louis. For more information call (314) 863-4999 or visit www.brownpapertickets.com.
* Member, Actor's Equity Association
+ Member of the United Scenic Artists Local 829
Photo by Peter Wochniak