Dou­ble duty

Dan Ostling makes his Look­ing­glass di­rec­to­rial de­but with ‘Blood Wed­ding’

Chicago Sun-Times - - ARTS - BY THOMAS CON­NORS

More of­ten than not, wed­dings por­trayed on­stage and in film— from Shake­speare to “Brides­maids”— are played for laughs. But not all nup­tials end well and, in the the­ater, there’s ar­guably no I-thee-wed show that de­scends to disas­ter so darkly as Fed­erico Gar­cía Lorca’s “Blood­Wed­ding.” First per­formed in 1933, the poet’s un­set­tling drama gets a fresh it­er­a­tion at Look­ing­glass Theatre un­der the di­rec­tion of en­sem­ble mem­ber Dan Ostling.

A study in sti­fling duty and love de­nied, the play de­picts the rapid dis­in­te­gra­tion of a rus­tic cou­ple’s union. There’s a shadow over the pro­ceed­ings from the start, as the groom’s dom­i­neer­ing mother, whose hus­band died young and whose other son was mur­dered, be­moans the up­com­ing loss of her re­main­ing child.

“I first read ‘Blood­Wed­ding’ in 1998 and fell in love with it,” Ostling says. “The way it grap­ples with long­ing — for union with some­one else, for be­long­ing, for a spir­i­tual con­sum­ma­tion. This un­quench­able thirst to find a miss­ing part of our­selves is a uni­ver­sal hu­man ex­pe­ri­ence.”

In­ter­est­ingly, Ostling’s

“This un­quench­able thirst to find a miss­ing part of our­selves is a uni­ver­sal hu­man ex­pe­ri­ence.”

—Di­rec­tor Dan Ostling

pri­mary oc­cu­pa­tion is scenic de­sign. At Look­ing­glass, he’s set the look of dozens of shows, from “Meta­mor­phoses” to “Ti­tle and Deed.” But ever since helm­ing a pro­duc­tion at New Jersey’s Two River The­ater in 2011, he’s been look­ing to di­rect again. “I ab­so­lutely loved that ex­pe­ri­ence and was ea­ger to di­rect again, but at Look­ing­glass, my artis­tic home,” Ostling says. He ran the idea of “Blood­Wed­ding” by his col­leagues and, with their en­cour­age­ment, mounted a work­shop pro­duc­tion. His ef­fort im­pressed and the pro­ject got the green light.

Ostling is both di­rec­tor and de­signer for “Blood­Wed­ding,” lead­ing us to won­der how he man­ages to wear both hats. “I rarely see a set when I be­gin work­ing,” he says. “I tend to pay at­ten­tion to what mo­ments stand out as par­tic­u­larly mov­ing or dis­turb­ing or beau­ti­ful, and how the over­all arc of a piece af­fects me. With ‘Blood­Wed­ding,’ I found the char­ac­ters and the cir­cum­stances clearer to me than the set for a long time. Lorca was a mu­si­cian, poet, play­wright, di­rec­tor, de­signer, painter. He had an in­sa­tiable de­sire to cre­ate us­ing all the tools at his dis­posal. I find that in­te­gra­tion of el­e­ments into a sin­gle act of sto­ry­telling in­spir­ing. And I have al­ways shared that thirst to tell a story us­ing more than just one dis­ci­pline.”

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