The title is a take on Federico García Lorca’s 1932 Boda de Sangre (Blood Wedding) and, indeed, a large photo of the young, handsome García Lorca looms over the proceedings like an eerie spirit, his story of being assassinated by right wing officers during the Spanish Civil War, the opening salvo in an evening of despair.
There’s Blood at the Wedding is divided into thirteen scenes plus a prologue and an epilogue, each part devoted to a single story. The imaginative, colorful set by Skipitares and Donald Eastman is dominated by a small proscenium. Puppetry, recorded narration, masks, video by Kay Hines, and a moody, effective score by Sxip Shirey pilots the series of tales at a fast clip.
After a short, mysterious conversation between a mother and son—developed in subsequent scenes—the story of Philando Castile is explored. Phalando, a 32-year-old African American, was shot sitting innocently in his car in a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota, an assassination witnessed by his fiancée. A song, “What’s Left of a Man,” is a sad list of the mundane possessions left behind by Castile.
An ironic lullaby, “All Babies Must Cry,” is heartbreaking. A long vignette about Amadou Diallo and his extended family makes it clear that Amadou had scraped together funds to go to college, but his plans were sadly cut short by New York City officers who were not only acquitted of any charges, but wound up being promoted. The second-by-second description of his confrontation with the police is hair-raising.
The detailed stories of Eric Garner, who died after a police takedown in Staten Island; Sean Bell, killed on the night of his bachelor party; Justine Damond, shot down in her pajamas as she ran towards a police car; and Sandra Bland, arrested and beaten for failing to use a turn signal—later supposedly committing suicide in her prison cell—all unravel with theatricality and wit as embodied by the game cast of actors and puppeteers: Nishan Ganimian, Chris Ignacio, Alexa Jordan, Onome, Jane Catherine Shaw, Eric Lawrence Taylor, Kāli Therrien and Tom Walker.
Skillfully using a complicated combination of set pieces, including book-like structures, Skipitares organizes the stories into dark divertissements whose irony becomes clearer the more circus-like the presentation of each is. The final impression is of a colorful carnival of sad stories that work their way into the viewer’s conscience.
There’s Blood at the Wedding (through June 3, 2018)
La MaMa E.T.C. in association with Skysaver Productions
Ellen Stewart Theatre, La Mama E.T.C., 66 East 4th Street, in Manhattan
For tickets, call 212-352-3101 or visit http://www.lamama.org
Running time: 50 minutes without an intermission