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Othello

a Drama
CATEGORY :
by William Shakespeare

COMPANY : Georgia Shakespeare [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Conant Performing Arts Center [WEBSITE]
ID# 1609

SHOWING : October 12, 2006 - November 05, 2006

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

Brandon J. Dirden stars as Shakespeare's jealous Moore.


CAST & CREW LIST
Director Vincent Murphy
Stage Manager Margo Kuhne
Othello Brandon Dirden
Brabantio, Montano, Clown, Lodovico Chris Kayser
Desdemona Park Krausen
Iago John G. Preston
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REVIEWS

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Cuts and Shadows
by Dedalus
Monday, October 30, 2006
4.0
Rethinking and Abridging Shakespeare is, by definition, a thankless endeavor. There are always those who will gripe about losing favorite lines or scenes or characters. There are those who are dissatisfied with anything not strictly “by the book.” And, if an abridgement/conceptualization is actually successful, it makes it more difficult for future directors who want to “put all that stuff back in.”

Such is the case with Georgia Shakespeare’s new “Othello”, abridged by and starring Brandon J. Dirden as the jealous Moor of Venice. Pared down to two acts and 10 characters (played by 6 actors), this is an “Othello” that works in almost every way – the action is clear and focused, the dialog is rich and emotional, and the impact is erotic and moving. How ever will we now have the patience to sit through a complete version, with all that “other stuff” back in?

Here, the focus is on the relationships, the intense on-on-one confrontations that are the building-blocks of this tragedy. Gone are the crowds, the servants, the spectacle. Left behind are all the good bits – the plots and connivings and contrivances that catch Othello in their web. Not left out are hints that Othello is flawed, that he is quick to anger and can be very cruel to his friends and lovers. Here is a man we expect to murder his wife, who possesses in full measure those dark corners that are can be so well-hidden by the “mild-mannered” abusers of today. If Mr. Dirden appears at first too young to have acquired all the experience necessary for a man in his position, his youth eventually makes his actions more plausible and more moving than if he had been more mature.

A few years ago, I actually walked out on an “Othello,” mainly because it had an Iago I found monotonous and over-melodramatic (in a Victorian Mustache-twirling Villain sense). Here, company newcomer John G. Preston effectively shows us an effective Iago, one who woos us and Othello, one whose motives are both complex and opaque, one who finds simple joy in the experience of a well-planned plot coming together. He is everything I expect in an Iago, and he is a joy to watch.

Park Krausen and Joe Knezevich are also letter-perfect as Desdemona and Cassio. I liked their wit, their befuddlement at the unexpected events, and the courage they each have of their own integrity. The multiple roles played by Chris Kayser and Kate Donadio also were vivid, distinct, and provided links and relevancies between those characters that had been ignored in other “more complete” productions.

It still bothers me a bit that Desdemona is able to speak after being suffocated, that Emilia is so late in seeing through her husband’s duplicity (doesn’t she have any suspicions about him at all?), and that Cassio’s drunken brawl is a little too convenient for Iago’s plans. But these, I suppose, are contrivances of Elizabethan theatre, and changing them would create totally new problems and inconsistencies.

In this production, I was also a bit irritated at first by the dimness, by the reliance on footlights. It was when I realized the significance of shadows that this began to work for me. The set and light design here combine to make a very shadow-friendly environment, a world in which actions have their “shadow reactions,” where what characters say and what they do are at odds. It finally got to the point where it looked as if the shadows were acting independently of their sources, as if they lived in a reality of their own that was at once darker and more real. It is significant that the final scene, where emotion and truth and anger and suspicion unite in a free-for-all of error and tragedy that the shadows fade and are replaced by light.

And this must be one of the “hottest,” most erotic killing scenes I’ve seen on stage. And it is appropriate – Othello is after all, an intensely physical presence, his relationship with Desdemona is an expression of primitive physicality, and eroticism and suspicion and jealousy and love are all manifestations of that physicality. I loved this scene!

So, I fully recommend this production to anyone who loves the heart and sweat of Shakespeare, but can get a little impatient at his obsession with scale and trivialities. Pared to the bone, this is an “Othello” that strikes angrily at the heart, at the head, and at the loins.

-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)



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