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Blood Wedding

Presented by KEF Productions and Connect Theatre Ensemble, in association with MoxieStage, at the Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural and Educational Center, 107 Suffolk St., NYC, Oct. 30-Nov. 16.

Director Karen Shefler has put together an ambitious mounting of "Blood Wedding," the poetic drama by Spanish playwright Federico García Lorca (1898-1936).

Shefler is an M.F.A. candidate in directing at Columbia University, and her production is suffused with avant-garde directorial embellishments. Sometimes they work well with Lorca's dense but folklike text, and sometimes they don't, but the show displays an imaginative theatrical mind at work.

The play is built around a violent incident, a wedding party that turns bloody when the bride runs off with a past lover. Shefler has guided her 15 actors into a coherent ensemble, keeping the stage energized with the ebb and flow of group movement. I liked the upright wine bottles that marked off the major playing area and how the actors knocked them over and let them roll ominously onto the area after the play's climactic moments. Extended dance sequences are also notable, with choreography by Caron Eule and Ryann Nelson, although hints of "West Side Story," the Macarena, and hula hoops look peculiarly out of place.

Other elements also tend to be distracting. Sudden shifts in lighting utilizing fluorescents, and sequences that seem built around spatial explorations rather than the sense of the scene come across as simply too much avant-garde icing on the cake. And the sudden use of "Habanera" from "Carmen" on the busy soundtrack sounds like Spanish overkill.

But as much as directorial prowess, "Blood Wedding" needs actors who can convincingly convey the play's dark emotions and sense of irreversible destiny. For the most part, the company's earnest but youthful actors fall short, and Lorca's heightened language, in a translation by Ted Hughes, often sounds forced. However, Meital Dohan effectively portrays the bride's sense of mysterious melancholy, masking the unfulfilled passions of a past love, and Culley Johnson has an agreeable innocence as the bridegroom.

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