Bodas De Sangre: Cycles of Role-Playing and Revenge

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

Photos by Se Eun Gong.

Bodas de Sangre (_Blood Wedding_) surges with passion and poetry, and McFeely Sam Goodman’s production vividly captures the turbulent desires and fears of characters plunging towards a shared catastrophe. The Honors Directing Thesis of Goodman ’10 situates Federico García Lorca’s powerful tale of lust and betrayal amidst the synthetic contrivances of a Las Vegas wedding chapel, and the play is a thrillingly metatheatrical examination of stories and archetypes.

Unfolding in ninety unabated minutes, Bodas de Sangre is an original translation and adaptation of García Lorca’s 1932 play. Goodman sought to retain the flavor of the original Spanish text while crafting a piece that would be engaging and accessible to a contemporary audience. His new adaptation draws on elements of traditional Spanish folklore while moving into the realm of familiar experience to present a story both definite and timeless: the Bride is affianced to the Groom, but her heart belongs to Leonardo, whose family has long maintained a blood feud against the Groom’s family. The ill-fated wedding spirals out of control when Leonardo and the Bride are both discovered missing, and the Groom’s furious pursuit impels the unending cycle of violence and revenge towards another cataclysmic tragedy.

Goodman says he selected Bodas de Sangre for his Directing Thesis because the play offers a compelling examination of stories and the roles that stories play in people’s lives. “The characters, except for Leonardo, are given names that are not names, but archetypes, and to me it’s very clear that those archetypes are roles,” he explains. For Goodman, the play’s two central motifs — the wedding and the blood feud — both represent specifically ritualized narratives that confine people to certain actions and behaviors. The disparity between the characters and the roles they assume at the wedding provide the framework for this production, and Goodman elaborates that he wanted to stage a show about the people behind García Lorca’s text: “These archetypes, these characters, are people in trouble, and acting out this story gives them a way of behaving and a way of explaining their lives that is simpler than the actual facts of their lives.”

To overcome the unique challenges presented by this concept, Goodman employed the framing device of a Las Vegas wedding. Meticulously designed by Tara Nova Webb ’94, the set includes a box-like chapel with all the garish signifiers of cheap Vegas decadence. As they anticipate their entrances, the characters wander about the peripheries of the box, assuming their roles when they pass through the curtains into the chapel. A series of film reels and projections suggest a 1920s movie theater, and Bodas de Sangre’s heterogeneous aesthetic further enhances an ambiance of surrealistic foreboding.

Goodman’s intrepid cast brings great acumen and dedication to the show, and the performers skillfully navigate the complex landscape of action, character, and archetype. McFeely Jackson Goodman ’13, who plays Leonardo, describes Bodas de Sangre as “the most intellectually invigorating theater experience I’ve ever been a part of,” because the piece offered “unique insights into the process of building characters and scenes.” Nell Bang-Jensen ’11 (Leonardo’s Wife) concurs, adding, “To be a character who is intentionally and deliberately performing a script adds a whole new level to acting.”

Bodas de Sangre is a mentally stimulating production that never loses sight of the very fraught, very human emotions of its characters. Goodman highlights the characters’ doubts and fears as they encounter their own entrapment and inadequacy. “The show presents these people who are desperately trying to figure out their lives, explain their lives, put their lives in some sort of beautiful tragic order,” he says. “And we watch them fail and have to start over again.” The play is an evocative meditation on the ways in which people strive to fit themselves into certain archetypes and perform their own stories. “In the end, it is a very human and emotional story about the lies we tell ourselves and each other to live our daily lives in the way we aspire to live them,” Bang-Jensen concludes. Riveting from beginning to end, Bodas de Sangre is an electrifying re-imagination of a classic tale that still has the power to shock and awe.

Presented by the Swarthmore College Department of Theater, Bodas de Sangre (_Blood Wedding_) plays in the Lang Performing Arts Center Frear Ensemble Theater Friday, April 16 – Saturday, April 17 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, April 18 at 3 p.m. The play is adapted and directed by McFeely Sam Goodman ’10. Original music is composed and directed by Jamie Birney ’10. The design team includes Tara Nova Webb ’94 (set and media), James Murphy (lighting), Dan Perelstein ’09 (sound), Samantha Panepinto ’13 (costumes), and Logan Tiberi-Warner (dramaturgy, hair and makeup). The production features Jane Lief Abell ’11, Jamie Birney ’10, Nell Bang-Jensen ’11, Melissa Cruz ’10, Nolan Gear ’12, McFeely Jackson Goodman ’13, Eric Holzhauer ’10, Sirkka Natti ’11, Anna Ramos ’13, Miriam Rich ’11, and Carson Young ’10.

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