‘Blood Wedding’ pulses with unrequited love

Blood Wedding is a modern rendition of a tragedy, a ghost story and a tale about the choices women have in life – and those they do not. 

At only 85 minutes without an intermission, Blood Wedding is lean with intense physical actions and strikingly modern elements.

Written in 1932 by the late Spanish poet, playwright and theater director Federico García Lorca, this production is directed by Ismael Lara Jr. and translated by Caridad Svich.

In the digital program provided to ticket holders in advance of attending, there are 15 named roles. Only one of those characters, Leonardo, is named. Everyone else is identified by the role they play within this stifling microcosm: Bride, Groom, Wife, Mother, Father, Mother-in-law, etc. 

Esteban Ortiz-Villacort as Groom, Alexis Diaz-Waterman as Bride and Theo Gyra as Leonardo in Blood Wedding. Credit: Justin Barbin

Blood Wedding is a story pulsating with unrequited love.

  • Bride marries Groom but does not love him.
  • Leonardo has been married to his Wife and they have a baby, but he pines for Bride, his former fiancée.
  • Mother, widowed too young, pines for her long-dead husband and son, both murdered, chaining her to the land to visit their graves and to her black shroud.
  • Father of the Bride speaks of his long-dead wife.
  • Maid speaks longingly, almost lustfully, to Bride of the physical protection and affection a husband provides a wife, as Bride recoils. 

The five leads are excellent in their tortured roles, each one bedeviled and trapped by thoughts they cannot control. They are Gabriela Furtado Coutinho (Mother), Alexis Diaz-Waterman (Bride), Esteban Ortiz-Villacorta (Groom), Nena Martins (Wife) and Theo Gyra (Leonardo). 

Gabriela Furtado Coutinho as Mother and Benjamin Jouras as Father of the Bride in Blood Wedding. Credit: Justin Barbin

Coutinho anchors the show, playing a woman who married young, quickly had two sons and then watched her husband and son be murdered. In a conversation, Coutinho explained that her character is probably in her late 30s or early 40s, but she has grown old and hardened by her life circumstances. All of her hope for the future is riding on her one remaining child, Groom.

The play is predominantly in English with occasional Spanish phrases and sentences. Even if every word is not translated, the gist of the story is evident.

It’s a small cast. Many of the performers hold more than one role, which they deliver seamlessly. This tight group conveys the societal restrictions that are unknowingly strangling the life force out of the community. 

In an email, the director explained the intense arm and hand movements that are performed by the cast at the play’s start: “The movement was inspired by the notion of the community reaching for their instinctual wants and having to stop themselves due to societal expectations,” Lara said. “We were experimenting with movements that expressed being caged/constricted and breaking into freedom.”

A scene from the wedding in “Blood Wedding.” Credit: Justin Barbin

The minimalist set, designed by Tianxuan Chen, consists of two simple wooden chairs, draped curtains that surround three sides of a rectangular space at center stage, ground cork mimicking sand to cover the area close to the proscenium and a second tier catwalk. The second tier represents distances traveled by the characters who traverse it. 

The costumes, designed by Alaina Moore, are equally spare. The Bride is the only one whose costumes include color. Five important but minor characters are introduced – the Woodcutters, the Moon and Beggar – each with costumes that communicate their roles.

The lighting, designed by Avi Sheehan, is stunning and impactful during the wedding party and the forest scenes. 

In the director’s notes in the program, Lara wrote that Blood Wedding is “about a community trapped by a traditional patriarchal structure, abiding by societal expectation, and wrestling with an unlived life.” Coutinho confirmed that the play is an allegory for “Lorca’s relationship that cannot be.”

Lorca was killed in Granada in August 1936 by fascist forces at the start of Spain’s civil war. His outspoken socialist political views and known identity as a gay man are believed to have led to his assassination.  

Lara includes a quote from the playwright, which is a succinct explanation of the events depicted on stage: “To burn with desire and keep quiet about it is the greatest punishment we can bring on ourselves.” 

Blood Wedding plays at the Josephine Louis Theater at the Virginia Wadsworth Wirtz Center for the Performing Arts (20 Arts Circle Drive on Northwestern University’s campus) through Feb. 5. Masks must be worn in the audience. Tickets, which range from $6 for Northwestern students to $25 for the general public, are available online