Roderigo loves Desdemona, but she is married to Othello. Iago is angry with Othello because he has promoted Cassio, who Iago feels is the lesser soldier, over him, and he sets up Roderigo to be a pawn in his plot of revenge. Though Othello and Desdemona are truly in love, by play's end, they're all dead, except for Iago, who has been charged with murder. Othello is a straightforward tragedy, with military and political affairs, and those of the heart.
The Public's entire cast is stocked with excellent actors who bring Shakespeare's language to life, and present the story clearly. But the spotlight is on Teagle F. Bougere as Othello and Jeremy Kushnier as Iago. Bougere is powerful and commanding as the Moor general Othello, and his pronunciation of "Desdemona" goes palpably from a lustful growl to a disgusted spit as Othello falls for Iago's trickery and thinks his wife has betrayed him with Cassio. Kushnier's Iago is high-energy and half mad. Despicable doesn't come close to describing this character, and Kushnier goes full outjust to but not over the line of overdone. His engagement with the audience (just this side of "You sir! How about a shave?") in the intimate O'Reilly theatre brings us in at the same time as he repels us. It's more of a free fall than a roller coaster, but the ride is thrilling and goes by in a flash.
Director Ted Pappas uses a deft hand to guide the cast to ride the high emotion in this rarely subtle production. Scenes are pulled together by Pappas and his design team to make us think there is more to the physical staging than there is. James Noone provides a minimal and function set: It's not the star. Gabriel Berry's costumes, evoking an 1800s resetting, are detailed and impressive. Kirk Bookman and Zach Moore do their typical fine work with lighting and sound, completing this cohesive presentation. It's a real collaborative effort, and a highly successful one.
Through May 17, 2015, at the O'Reilly Theater. For performance and ticket information, call 412-316-1600 or visit ppt.org/.
Cast: Roderigo: Christopher Michael McFarland, Iago: Jeremy Kushnier, Brabantio: Edward James Hyland, Othello: Teagle F. Bougere, Cassio: Paul Terzenbach, Duke of Venice: David Whalen, Gratiano: Larry John Meyers, Lodovico: Daniel Krell, Desdemona: Amanda Leigh Cobb, Montano: Michael MacCauley, Emilia: Jessica Wortham, Bianca: Robin Abramson, Soldiers, Messengers, Citizens: Shaun Cameron Hall, Ross Kobelak, Joseph Martinez, Andrew William Miller, Garrett Storm, Michael Lane Sullivan.