One bride torn between a gallant groom and the unhappily married ex-lover whose kin killed her beau’s brother and father—the lusciously scripted plot of Federico Garcia Lorca’s 1933 play—Bodas de Sangre (Blood Wedding)—now playing at the GALA Theater, upholds the best and excludes the worst of what the succulent world of Telemundo sensational soap operas propagates as Spanish-language drama.
Bad acting isn’t an issue, as a cast of talented and but still pretty faces illuminate the stage. The bridegroom’s mother, María Victoria Peña, strikes an elegant balance between humor and sorrow, as she craftily inserts a pinch of crotchety humor in a way that humanizes, rather than victimizes, a resilient character who incessantly grieves the loss of a husband and son. It’s the tension-filled interplay between the Bride, Karen Morales-Chacana; her ex-lover, Carlos Castillo; and the bridegroom; Frank Vélez Rodríguez; that forms the real dramatic juice of Lorca’s play. While at the side of the giddy, but wise and all-knowing maid, who is brilliantly played by Ediza Vega, the bride cuts loose and allows herself to gush and throw lustful tantrums that convey her true desires. When her old flame—Leonardo—busts on stage you can almost feel the tingles that tickle her spine. The dashing bridegroom, Rodríguez, meanwhile, does a good job of asserting his character as the sensible choice for a husband. Castillo’s edge could be a little bit sharper as a clearer point of contrast.
The entire cast is, at times, guilty of overacting when the script gets poetic. For the most part, Hugo Medrano exquisitely addresses these challenges by having some lines sung and transformed into compelling harmonies. The guitar melodies of musician Ramin Rad eloquently lace the drama as it unfolds. However, the inclusion of a brief flamenco dance spectacle that is nudged into the middle of the first act rides the risk of being disruptive and overly-ambitious. Luckily Rad, his singer, and dancer Genoveva Guinn are so talented that one is too entertained to really care.
You don’t have to speak Spanish to know that any Telemundo telenovela is based on the principle that “callar y quemarse es el castigo más grande que nos podemos echar encima”—to burn with desire and keep quiet about it is the greatest punishment we can bring on ourselves. Lorca mastered the art of infusing tragic social calamities with gripping verses and symbols that allowed him to comment more broadly on the parameters within which public drama takes place. Meanwhile, GALA Theater provides subtitles for all those who would normally miss out.
BODAS DE SANGRE
Starring Frank Velez Rodríguez, Maria Victoria Peña, Karen Moreales-Chacana and more. Written by Federico Garcia Lorca, directed by Hugo Medrano. Presented by Gala Theatre, 3333 14th Street, NW, Washington, DC. In Spanish with English subtitles. Through April 27th.