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(Updated 1:30 p.m., Apr. 29)
ENCORE! Theatre production explores the dark side of love
By Fred Sherwin
Orléans Online

Stefanie Cooper plays the groom's mother in the ENCORE! Theatre Company's performance of Frederico Lorca's 'Blood Wedding'. Fred Sherwin/Photo

It was Frank Sinatra who once sung that love is a many splendoured thing. Too bad Spanish playwright Frederico Lorca didn't live long enough to hear it.

In his famous play "Blood Wedding", performed by the ENCORE! Theatre Company Friday night, Lorca examines the more destructive side of love.

The central figure in the play is Leonardo, a brash strong-willed young man who is the antithesis of Latin machismo.

Leonardo was once engaged to a young woman simply referred to in the play as "the bride". She is about to marry another young man when Leonardo starts paying secret visits to her window.

The groom's family and Leonardo's family have a long history together. One of Leonardo's relatives killed the groom's brother and father in a fight. When the groom's mother discovers the connection between his future bride and Leonardo she is instantly suspicious of her.

Since breaking up with the bride-to-be, Leonardo married another woman and has an infant daughter by her and a child on the way.

As distant relatives of the bride (from what I could understand they're all second cousins in some way), Leonardo and his wife are invited to the wedding.

Throughout the first few scenes leading up to the occasion, the bride-to-be gives subtle hints that the flame she once carried for Leonardo is still smouldering.

While the audience never gets to see the actual wedding ceremony, we do get to see the married couple at the reception afterwards.

The wife all of a sudden seems distant and agitated. When the groom tries to embrace her from behind, she recoils at his touch. Complaining of a headache she retires to her bedroom, but when the groom goes to check on her, she's not there. It's left up to Leonardo's wife to announce to the wedding party that the pair have fled together on horseback.

After much lamentation on the part of his forlorn mother, the jilted groom sets off to find the two star-crossed lovers and exact his revenge on them.

Having made off into the night, the couple seeks refuge in a nearby forest where the girl starts to have second thoughts. After confessing that neither had fallen out of love with the other they are discovered by the groom who is guided in his search by an old lady who represents death and a blood lusting moon.

In the struggle that follows, both young men are killed, leaving the grieving mother with no more sons. Overcome with guilt, the bride returns to the village, her wedding dress stained with the blood of Leonardo and her dearly departed husband, and offers the mother her life to avenge the death of her son.

As the play ends, the mother raises the knife in the air and the stage lights quickly fade to black.

When I was leaving the theatre, I couldn't help but think of another quote about love, this one by Sir Walter Scott -- "Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive."

"Blood Wedding" is the mother of all tangled webs and the ENCORE! troupe has delivered yet another captivating performance.

Albert Nesrallah was brilliant as the fiery Leonardo and Kathleen Shore was superb as the bride. Other excellent performances were delivered by Patrick Villeneuve as the groom and Stefanie Cooper as the groom's mother. The rest of the principle cast was rounded out by Cassy Olsthoorn as the maid, Nick Dubus as the bride's father, Sarah Benfield as the Leonardo's wife, Karine Longpré as the mother-in-law, and Teri James as the mother-in-law's neighbour and death.

The company also included David Bernstein, Kayla Carman, Stacey Fleury and A.J. Jimmo who played the wedding guests.

One of the highlights of the production for me was the soundtrack which included music by Radiohead, The Subways, The Devlins and Harvey Danger. The choice of music was superb and set the tone for the entire play.

Kudos to first time director Patrick Gauthier and stage manager Kimberly Hand who did an excellent job overseeing the multiple scene changes.

"Blood Wedding" continues today at the Orléans Town Theatre with performances at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for students. The Orléans Theatre is located at 255 Centrum Blvd. inside the Orléans Client Service Centre.

(This story was made possible thanks to the generous support of our local business partners.)

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