Review of Othello
By William Shakespeare
Directed by Robert Currier
For tickets / schedule :
Forest Meadows Amphitheatre, Dominican University of California
RUN: September 2 – 25, 2016
RATING: 5 of 5 stars
(September 3, 2016)
Othello is rooted in raw emotion—passion, jealousy, revenge—demonstrated powerfully in the ballet version by Lar Lubovitch. The story relies heavily on internal unvoiced emotion conveyed through the actors, rather than repartee. Othello’s deep love is moved to disgust, Iago’s stung honour festers into rage, and Emilia’s coldness turns to horror. Director Robert Currier brings out the popular Medieval concept of faege feallan, that death at the appointed time is inevitable. The audience watches powerlessly as Iago lays elaborate traps, serving as cruel puppet master until the one player he thought was fully under his control breaks free.
Cassidy Brown’s Iago takes pleasure in his machinations with collected ease. He is a disturbing mix of pleasant companion and thoughtful villain, rather like Moriarty in Sherlock Holmes. What begins as a source of amusement for him, pushing Othello as far as he can, spins into a treacherous plot in earnest, reaching dark depths in the murder of innocent Desdemona. His clever wife, Emilia (Elena Wright), goes along at first with minor jests, but does not realize how far he is willing to go. She catches glimpses of his true nature, which gives her pause, and when she discovers her husband caused the death of her dearest friend, Emilia snaps. Elena Wright is riveting in her frantic pleas that Iago’s lies be revealed, irate at the injustice of Desdemona’s fate. She cries out what the audience wanted to do from the beginning—rip the mask away from Iago and show his duplicity.
The Moor is inhabited by Dameion Brown, whose commanding presence dominates the stage. Toward Desdemona, his tenderness is heartbreaking—soft even while snuffing out her life. Breaking up Cassio’s drunken brawl, his leadership causes men to tremble from a look. That focus and confidence will serve him well as an actor. His lovely, naïve wife Desdemona (Luisa Frasconi) trips about with girlish solicitude, looking for the best in everyone and oblivious to her own destruction. She is caught up in her own world, unable to discern Othello’s moods or Iago’s jealousy.
Dreary castle walls loom over the stage, illuminated by flashes of torchlight flickering through the gloom. The set design by Jackson Currier includes a moat and tiered performance areas used to excellent effect during the production. Abra Berman’s costumes continue to impress, from flowing robes to tight scarlet jerkins.
Marin Shakespeare’s Othello is a somber study in the difference one man can make in the lives of others—a tribute to doomed love, set amid the intimate Forest Meadows amphitheatre in gathering dusk. Othello is pure Shakespeare, traditionally staged with an exemplary cast and setting.