Anthony J. Piccione
- New York Theatre Critic
Of the many problems in America today, police brutality and racial discrimination have been some of the most toxic and recurring problems that have constantly plagued our society. While a number of highly-publicized incidents – and the subsequent Black Lives Matter movement – have helped draw more attention to these serious issues over the past decade, the reality is that they’ve been going on for much, much longer than that. It’s a reality that’s put on full display in There’s Blood at the Wedding, the latest production to be presented at La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club.
Created and directed by Theodora Skipitares, the show isn’t exactly a conventional play, so much as it’s a blend of storytelling, music, dance/movement, and puppetry. On one side of the stage is a small duo of actors, performing with their voices, in a set up that’s not unlike that of a reader’s theatre or even radio theatre setting. For a large portion of the show, they provide the vocals for the dancers and puppets that take us deep into the human tragedies that define what’s often labeled as merely a “political” issue, with examples such as the killings of Eric Garner and Sandra Bland – to name a few – being stand-out moments that are depicted in this show, in a deeply emotional and striking manner.
Along the way, I admit that it was hard for me to not have a hint of emotion, as the show progressed, as I say that as someone who doesn’t often get very emotional at shows, even as I recognize the impact it has on others. The show hones in on some very specific incidents and how they took place, along with the aftermath and impact it had on those who were left behind – particularly on the mothers, as seen toward the end – while also leaving a powerful and hopeful message of resistance and strength, even as these dark times continue.
Amidst the colorful lighting atmosphere, the cast of the show – consisting of Nishan Ganimian, Chris Ignacio, Alexa Jordan, Onome, Jane Catherine Shaw, Eric Lawrence Taylor, Kali Therrien, and Tom Walker – all do a very fine job at bringing the stories in this show to life, in a raw and vivid fashion. Ms. Shaw, in particular, also deserves accolades for playing double duty, and also taking responsibility for designing the wonderful puppets used in the show. Indeed, both the puppetry and the large props are a big part of what makes this theatrical storytelling so engaging.
This is political avant-garde theatre at its finest. It’s an intense show that unapologetically confronts the sad reality facing people of color in America today, in a matter that is just as emotionally raw as it is artfully presented. By the end of the show, if you weren’t already thinking about these issues, you will be afterward. It’s one of those theatrical experiences that should be seen by everyone, regardless of their prior thinking on these topics, and I’d encourage anyone reading this to attend one of its next performances over the next two weeks…and be prepared with tissues, just in case.
“There’s Blood at the Wedding” runs at the Ellen Stewart Theatre at LaMaMa Experimental Theatre Club from May 18th to June 3rd. For more information, please visit www.