Mother seethes with passion: a passion for revenge.
Leonardo and another man's bride seethe with passion: a passion for each other.
Death and the moon seethe with passion: a passion for blood to be spilled.
Everyone seethes with a passion for the things that society tells them they cannot have.
Blood Weddings begins at a fever pitch with Beatriz Pizano, in the best telenovela style of suppressed emotions about to explode, agreeing to allow her son Derek Kwan (Mr Shi and his Lover) to marry. It is a marriage that will unite great swathes of property, and the son is clearly besotted if seemingly befuddled by the basic function of the marriage bed. Of course the bride-to-be, Bahereh Yaraghi (The Closet), was almost married to a man from the lower-strata family that killed the mother's husband and first son . . .
And so the inexorable wheels of fate are set in motion. Playwright Federico Garcia Lorca is a legend in Spanish-speaking cultures for his poems, plays, friendship with Salvdor Dali, homosexuality, politics and mysterious murder. The text of Blood Weddings is highly poetic with greek choruses, flights of symbolism and sexuality straining against propriety. Modern Times Stage Company and Aluna Theatre take the text and set it spinning with barely contained but carefully calibrated fervour. Death and the moon lock lips in a lascivious lesbian kiss and it is a beautiful and horrible metaphor, ridiculous and powerful.
Expectorating dramatically, Pizano chillingly announces that, "I have to spit to keep from killing." Leonardo, Carlos Gonzalez-Vio making full use of blazing eyes and a smouldering machismo, announces that he is burning both inside and out. Yaraghi matches him with an intensity so strong that she appears to be about to burst into flames. Steven Bush as the father of the bride-to-be salivates with sexual ecstasy at the financial prospects of the union. Jani Lauzon's servant and neighbour can barely contain their hysterical excitement, terror and gossipy glee. The wedding guests, including Mina James (All's Well That Ends Well) and sultry Sebastian Marziali (perhaps more familiar as El Toro), frantically make merry and are easily turned into a bloodthirsty mob.
To sustain such an intensity is tricky and more than once Blood Weddings threatens to explode into camp and comedy. But the strictures of their society are so binding - Pizano has a horrifically casual speech to poor Kwan illustrating iron clad and restrictive male/female and familial roles - that whirling in an inferno of repressed anger and despair seems perfectly logical. And the clever set, with cast members literally pounding against the glass that is sometimes reflective, sometimes revealing, is a prison as well as a frame. When the moon opens a window unleashing light against the oppressive encroaching darkness, it is the light of freedom but also certain destruction.
Lorca's language is itself a stricture on the cast and it is impossible not to topple into camp of a different sort when trying to convey some of the more flowery or overwrought passages. But by overlaying a great deal of style and illustrative symbolism, Blood Weddings becomes crystal clear and as gripping as a telenovela.
Blood Weddings continues until Sun, March 19 at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, 12 Alexander St. buddiesinbadtimes.com