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Washington DC by Susan Berlin

Othello

Othello
Patrick Page and
Avery Brooks

Washington’s Shakespeare Theatre Company is currently presenting its third production of Othello, and – unlike the earlier two – director Michael Kahn has not taken any liberties with the drama or the setting. Kahn keeps the play in its original time period, with a well-matched Othello and Iago in Avery Brooks and Patrick Page.

While Brooks and Page have both played their roles before, and Kahn directed an earlier Othello that went to Broadway, this production brings together three talents working with a unified vision and little “acting” for its own sake.

With his machinations and asides to the audience, Iago rivals Richard III as William Shakespeare’s most devious creation, but Page avoids the temptation of playing up each wicked flourish. By remaining cool and ironic, letting his deeds speak for themselves, Page presents the character as a surprisingly contemporary villain.

Brooks previously performed the role of Othello in Washington in 1990, in a production marked by the presence of African-American actors as Iago and Emilia. His characterization has mellowed since: then hot-headed and easily moved (opposite the vivid Iago of Andre Braugher), now he is calm and well-seasoned, comfortable with his life and the place he has carved for himself in the world. This Othello would not be taken in by a self-dramatizing Iago, but accepts Page’s subtle sociopathy at face value. The text’s description of Iago’s lies as poison rings true here: with each “dose” from Iago, Brooks becomes sicker and more credulous, leading to his final collapse and eventual redemption.

Colleen Delany is an admirable Desdemona who demonstrates both the unquestioning love and the backbone of a woman who has abandoned her previous life for the sake of love. As the unsuspecting pawn in Iago’s plot against Othello, she is pivotal, and Delany’s low-key intelligence (until the devastating final scenes) never succumbs to easy emotion.

David Sabin is magisterial in his few scenes as Brabantio, Desdemona’s father. As Cassio, the honorable soldier in over his head, Gregory Wooddell is serviceable, but never really shines.

James Noone’s scenic design uses bare wooden plank walls in imaginative ways to serve as both the palaces of Venice and the fortress of Cyprus. Lighting designer Charlie Morrison uses tightly focused spotlights to keep the emphasis on the performers’ facial expressions, while Jess Goldstein’s costumes and Martin Desjardins’ sound design add measurably to the overall theatrical experience.

The Shakespeare Theatre’s last production of Othello, in 1997, was non-traditional in its “photo-negative” casting: Patrick Stewart’s Othello was the only white actor in a cast of African-Americans.

Shakespeare Theatre Company
Othello
August 30th – October 30th
By William Shakespeare
Iago, Othello’s ensign: Patrick Page
Roderigo, a gentleman of Venice: Erik Steele
Brabantio, a Venetian senator, and father to Desdemona: David Sabin
Othello, a Moor: Avery Brooks
Desdemona, wife to Othello, daughter to Brabantio: Colleen Delany
Cassio, a lieutenant who serves under Othello: Gregory Wooddell
Duke of Venice: Ralph Cosham
Gratiano, a Venetian senator: W. Alan Nebelthau
Senator of Venice: Michael John Casey
Lodovico, a Venetian senator, and cousin to Desdemona: Laurence Drozd
Montano, governor of Cyprus, replaced by Othello: Joris Stuyck
Emilia, wife to Iago: Lise Bruneau
Bianco, a courtesan, and Cassio’s mistress: Andrea Cirie
Othello (in selected performances): David Emerson Toney
Gentlemen, Messengers, Sailors, Officers and Attendants played by the Ensemble: Dacyl Acevedo, Michael John Casey, Jordan Coughtry, Blake Ellis, Stephen Graybill, Tony Nam, Nicholas Urda, Jeremy West, Ryan Young
Directed by Michael Kahn
450 7th St. N.W.
Washington, DC
Ticket Information: 202-547-1122 or 877-487-8849 or www.shakespearetheatre.org


Photo: Carol Rosegg


-- Susan Berlin


Also see the Current Theatre Season Calendar for D.C.



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