The play ends on a dramatic note, although the resolution has been evident from the start, and the audience gives a generous applause. “Olives and Blood” imagines the intertwinement of Federico Garcia Lorca (the liberal writer who lived in his native Spain through the turmoil following the Spanish American War in 1898) and Trescante (a Fascist who part-took in Lorca’s murder).
The story is so simple: political extremes are blinding and stunt the poles’ original missions for progress. Olives and blood, peace and war. Yet what recovers the audience from the initial confusion, or possibly even disappointment, is the strong themes that are probed by both Lorca and Trescante. The first scene, to give a bit away, can be thought of as the inner struggle; the cartoonish devil on one shoulder and angel on the other, battling it out. To locate the voice of good based on personal understanding of violence would be to obfuscate the struggles each character faces individually. They have excuses and we have compassion. It is a trap.
The venue, HERE, does an excellent job of caring for every detail: a guitarist was set up just off stage to play as the audience took its seats, and the programs (more than just the usual tree-eating ones) provided information on Lorca’s ideas, life and even a relevant stanza of his poetry. As the actors play multiple roles—figuratively and literarily—the lighting, set and costuming design went through stunningly and sensibly. HERE is very lively, justifiably dubbing itself as a “multi-arts space”. There are two theaters (not exclusively for plays but for dance, puppetry and performances as well), a café and hallways utilized (and not just for the sake of another act in HERE’s repertoire) as gallery space. Also, there are elements of humor in both the play and the space: written out on the wall in a walking map drawing seem to be benefactor’s names, while the colorful partitions exist as if to mock just how tiny Manhattan forces some venues to be.
“Olives and Blood” is able to bring the ‘big questions’ to such a small gathering because of the actors’ abilities, albeit a bit too dramatic for my taste. Questions on art and science, passion and discipline, family and self-will are presented thoughtfully, but overwhelmingly in ways that even plentiful background information cannot forgive. I left unable to sort out my experience, but renewed in desire to ask the big questions. Art is like a wound, in the best possible way; a reminder that we are only human, but capable of at least suspecting something more.