Emotion Weights Lorca's `Blood Wedding'

BLOOD WEDDING Tragedy by Federico Garcia Lorca. Translated by Langston Hughes. Directed by Melia Bensussen. At the Joseph Papp Public Theater/The Martinson Hall. Through May 31.

THE New York Shakespeare Festival has mounted a suitably intense and somber production of "Blood Wedding." As the implacable Mother of the tragedy, Gloria Foster sets the tone and frequently dominates the unfoldment of Federico Garcia Lorca's 1933 symbolic tragedy. The revival staged by Melia Bensussen employs the stage to shrewd dramatic effect in a performance that runs 90 minutes without intermission.

The play opens with the stage in foreboding darkness. When the lights go up, the Mother (Ms. Foster) is attempting to persuade her son, The Groom (Al Rodrigo) against making a contemplated visit to his country vineyards. She is even more concerned about the silver dagger he wants to carry, having already lost her husband and another son to violence. But her warnings go unheeded.

Emotionally underlined by intervals of song and dance, "Blood Wedding" pursues its fated course. The married Leonardo (Joaquim De Almeda) runs off with the Groom's bride-to-be (Elizabeth Pena) on her wedding day. All of the preceding formalities - the signing of the nuptial agreement and the decent Groom's dutiful preparations - go for naught. The Mother is left with "just my grief and these four walls."

Under Ms. Bensussen's direction, the cast responds to the text of a symbolic work the poetic nature of which is preserved in the graceful Langston Hughes translation. Mr. Rodrigo's performance as the gentle Groom contrasts with Foster's fiercely formidable Mother. The text and milieu receive a sympathetic response from a cast that includes Cordelia Gonzalez (Leonardo's Wife), Phyllis Bash (The Mother-in-Law), Mike Hodge (The Father), and Ivonne Coll (The Neighbor).

The actors take care of the occasional furniture moving required by changing scenes. Derek McLane's sets (lighted by Peter Kaczorowski) range from festive to ominous, and Franne Lee's costumes are picturesquely Spanish. Composer Michele Navazio conducts a chamber group in the music that embellishes the action. Donald Byrd choreographed the dances.

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