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LA Theater Review

Blood Wedding

Yes, there's the story. We always start with the story. But what's a good story without a good storyteller? Or a few. So that even if we know how the story ends, we get to arrive at the finish in a new and interesting way. British playwright Tanya Ronder provides a very fluid, feminine focus in her take on Federico García Lorca's haunting and poetic tale of thwarted passions and doomed domesticity; she also happily trims it to 90 minutes. And in the hands of director Jon Lawrence Rivera and some standout performers, it's a lovely and polished—if somewhat uneven—package.

In "Blood Wedding" we first meet mother and son. As the matriarch who, still grieving over the loss of her husband and another son, steels herself in preparation for losing her youngest son (a fresh yet precise Willie Fortes) to marriage, Sharon Omi is wonderful; to a large degree she carries this production. Indeed, despite the testosterone fueling the play's major plot point (and Joshua Zar, as the Bride's former beau Leonardo, is chock-full of it), the women drive this particular story. Nikki McKenzie is appealing in the difficult role of the conflicted Bride; her interactions with Fortes' Groom are as sweet as her intersections with Zar are hot, and her internal struggles are heart-rending. Jennie Kwan is a nice, tidy counterpart, playing Leonardo's pregnant Wife.

Much of the production's success is in Rivera's embracing the play's stylization: The circular staging is beautiful, Nathan Wang's original music is super (although the strange scripted songs don't work), and unexpected elements are pretty fabulous. Death is played with a suave edge by a wry Robert Almodovar, and Ochuwa Oghie's Moon is glorious. Kudos, too, to John H. Binkley's lunar-centric scenic design and Derrick McDaniel's lighting. It all comes together when the actors are comfortable with Ronder's sometimes weighty language and can make it soar. Thankfully, Omi has a handle on this, and we stay with her every minute she's on stage. But too often, the poetry here is an obstacle. So despite a few striking performances and visual elements, this isn't quite the "Wedding" we want it to be.

Presented by and at the Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., L.A. June 25–Aug. 14. Fri.–Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m. (Exception: Sun., 7 p.m. only, Aug. 7.  Added shows  Wed., 8 p.m., July 27 & Aug. 3; Thu., 8 p.m., Aug. 11.) (310) 477-2055.    

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