★★★★☆ - Delicious
Perhaps Nevada Conservatory Theatre's vibrant, fluid, fidgety, committed version of Lorca’s Blood Wedding is the production I have been waiting for all my life.
Let me elaborate: Somehow over the years, I have missed either reading or seeing this classic drama. What a joy then to finally discover this masterpiece in such a riveting, evocative staging.
Director Allegra Libonati has assembled quite a thrilling cast of lithe, intense young actors and welded them into a superb ensemble. Ms. Libonati has staged the piece as an unfolding ritual, with undulating stage pictures that are constantly morphing into ever more menacing character relationships, with victims trapped against their will on an unavoidable journey.
She has masterfully interwoven Latin dance into the story telling and the large cast of characters often scrutinize the drama as it unfolds, silent sideline judges of the morality of the protagonists. She has made excellent use of the thrust space, managing to keep the actors in well-motivated motion to allow for all audience members to have a maximal vantage point. From first to last, Liobonati created a crescendo of inexorable tension that exploded into rewarding dramatic fireworks in the play’s climactic moments.
Set Designer Cat Dixon succeeded admirably in providing a suggestive, symbolic playing space. A swagged drape, a lone platform, a fanciful moon, all were perfectly judged minimalistic touches that mirrored the highly theatrical directorial concept. The set pieces were meticulously chosen, each one making an important artistic statement.
Brittney Nicole Price lit the proceedings with a brooding, ominous presence, underscoring the impending tragedy. Her uses of color and her spot-on cues were thrilling in their exactitude. I will not soon forget the lights-on, lights off strobe effects as the (spoiler alert) double murders occurred. Theresa Ramos’ sound design was another fine contribution, although there were times I wish the recorded whispering was being done live by the observant actors.
Costume designer Katie Dennis provided handsome, characterful attire that ably supported the actors’ efforts by helping to visually define their stations. The red dress on the flamenco dancer was a stunning visual accent. Ryan Baker and James Whiting contributed original music that resonated with the telling of the drama, although I wish more of it had been performed live.
The acting was of a high standard throughout and the cast was evenly matched in their stylistic approach and experience. Anchoring the show, Amanda Guardado gave a wonderfully complex, beautifully internalized performance as the Bride. Ms. Guardado was able to remain sympathetic even through all of her vacillations between the acceptable marriage in her grasp and the forbidden affair that entices.
Jacob Sidhom was certainly engaging as the Bridegroom. Puppy dog appealing, handsome and engaging, he wins our emotions and rallies us to his side in his quest for his fatally indecisive Bride. As the sexually alluring malcontent Leonardo, is every inch the bad boy, a shiny bauble that emanates the kind of dangerous charisma that makes us understand why the hapless Bride would risk her marriage for him. The three were perfection as an imperfect love triangle.
As the Bridegroom’s Mother, Gabriella Holbrook proved to be a consistent, scolding, domineering presence. She cannot be blamed for being too young for the role, but her excellent instincts and honesty will surely be more fully manifest in 20 year’s time. The same applies to Keach Siriani-Madden’s blasé take on the Bride’s Father. He manages to find all the complicity in the role without quite achieving the mature gravitas.
Bela Marie, as a yenta of a neighbor was appropriately meddling and opinionated, even if she was a mite caricatured. No matter, the actress was assured and relentless in her pursuit. As the opinionated maid, Alyssa Tortomasi turned in a solid traversal, making a minor role into a major presence. Ryan Baker was a lucid, lurid, intoxicating presence as the Moon, both vocally and physically. Ruliko Cronin, as Death, commanded our attention.
Aviana Glover effortlessly becomes the most likeable character in the piece as the troubled, pregnant Wife of Leonardo, the unwitting victim of his lusting for someone else’s Bride. Juliana Renee Martin was a suitably pitiable, hang dog Mother-in-Law to Leonardo, a key figure in the plot’s deadly twists and turns.
The three Woodcutters had a memorable turn as they brandish the roots of fate that entangle the love triangle All three were excellent in their focused, determined performances: Karsyn Wilson, Dawson Mullen, and Marcus Martinez.
Thanks to director Libonati, every singer cast member has their shining moment, as she created a triumphant ensemble performance of white hot concentration and abiding emotional truth.