There's Blood at the Wedding: A Review
As the sun set on yet another day when a gunman opened fire in a school on American soil the company of There’s Blood at the Wedding began their performance at La Mama ETC’s Ellen Stewart Theatre. Death by gunfire has become so pervasive in our society that these occurrences are categorized in a myriad of ways. This deeply moving, and at times, rightfully disturbing production seeks to address and present needless civilian deaths at the point of a police officer’s gun, or sometimes at the whims of their violent tactics. What is perhaps most chilling is that the thirteen vignettes that comprise this one hour entertainment represent just a mere drop in the bloody bucket we all bear.
Several forms of puppetry are blended together to present these stories and drive the point home. There are oversized full body puppets, shadow puppets, marionettes, and even the Japanese style of Bunraku puppetry, where the fully visible puppeteer manipulates the puppet figure in a seamless union of performer and character. The main artistic device though are large performing books that unfold with each story presented within. Developed just for this production these oversize books each contain their own unique storytelling methods. In this way, along with haunting music, poetic verse, and dance macabre the tragic stories of hapless victims like Sean Bell, Philando Castile, Sandra Bland, Justine Damand, and Amadou Diallo are all brought to brief life.
Puppetry has a long history of being a vehicle for political discourse. From ancient Egypt, early Europe, and through our modern-day world puppets can be found expressing and communicating what others find to be uncomfortable or unspeakable. Puppets and their puppeteers and the messages they wish to convey also tend to flourish when times become oppressive and freedom of speech is restricted. The various forms of the puppetry arts have at times remained a singular form of dissent rejecting the doctrines imposed on their human counterparts. There’s Blood at the Wedding exalts the art form further in its mission to prove itself more than just a device for entertaining children.
Having created, designed, and directed the overall production, Theodora Skipitares has lead an exemplary team of puppeteers, puppet builders, scenic designers, composers, musicians, singers, and performers in a remarkable piece of dark theatrical magic. These gifted artists working together bring about a synergy of creative mastery and social commentary that is impossible to ignore and inconceivable not to be impacted by. This is a company of expert craftsman at the start of their creative journeys together and one can only hope to see more of their collaborations in the future and in Ms. Skipitares there are definite reflections of producer, director, playwright, author, and puppeteer Julie Taymor at the beginning of her illustrious career.
Based on the recommendation of the American Theater Critics Association, La Mama Experimental Theatre Club will be this year’s recipient of the Special Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre. This honor is given to theatre companies that have displayed a continuous level of artistic achievement contributing to the growth of theatre nationally. There’s Blood at the Wedding is a perfect example of why La Mama is so deserving of this special award and why this bold and exemplary production is more than worthy of your attention.
La MaMa Ellen Stewart Theatre 66 E 4th Street New York, NY 10003 212.254.6468 $25
Edward Medina is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA) and welcomes comments at EdwardMedinaAuthor@gmail.com.