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Ventura County Star Theatre Review of Othello

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PostPosted: Thu Jul 27, 2006 1:29 pm    Post subject: Ventura County Star Theatre Review of Othello Reply with quote

A more positive review overall...

Exotic, human aspects combine in 'Othello'
By Rita Moran, Arts writer
July 26, 2006

An ominous rattle signals the dangers of a hot, dry land, and dancers undulate down steps and across stage as Kingsmen Shakespeare Festival's "Othello" opens in California Lutheran University's verdant park setting.

The contrast between the greenery of the Thousand Oaks campus and the unsettling aridness of distant Cyprus battlefields as perceived from Venice sets up the stranger-in-a-strange-land underpinning of the searing tragedy.

Othello, the Moor whose valiant victories have won the hearts of Venetian leaders and whose vivid tales of his life at the hand of Desdemona, beautiful daughter of the Venetian Senator Brabantio, is given to forthright action and has little use for, or understanding of, subterfuge.

His noble innocence makes him accessible to the wily treachery of Iago, a soldier who saw his expected promotion fall to Cassio and who is inclined to believe the lie that Othello has stolen pleasure with his wife, Emily.

The sheltered Desdemona, brought up beloved, is just as devoid of guile. As it turns out, Iago has enough venom to entangle both of them in a deadly deception.

The crux of "Othello" is the esteemed warrior's jealous rage at the thought of his wife being unfaithful with Cassio.

Then, and even now, "honor" killings occur, with the woman always considered the guilty one. But for a basically good man like Othello, it takes Iago's "evidence" and Desdemona's unwitting pleas for Cassio to be restored to favor after his dereliction of duty, both set up by Iago, to turn the hero into a villain in a moment of violence.

Shakespeare had more in mind than the basic bones of the plot he copped from an Italian source, one that noted that "Moors are naturally jealous."

Betrayal of trust is central to the intrigue, assisted by the sad fact that the newly wed Othello and Desdemona don't really know each other all that well, or the ways of the world that surrounds them. As portrayed in this production, theirs is a fairytale romance that shuts out the deep prejudices of Venetian society that rebel against a marriage of the pale Venetian woman and the dark Moor. They start out taking trust for granted, because it's natural to both of them, and end losing all.

Director Michael J. Arndt, co-founder of the 10-year-old festival and a professor of theater arts at CLU, deftly blends the exotic aspects of the tragedy with the human elements Shakespeare incorporated into the Italian source material.

The opening dance scene instantly reminds the audience that a household in Venice and a harem in Cyprus are quite different worlds, perhaps more so in the imagining than the reality.

If Othello stands apart because of his naive approach to Venice's complex stew of intrigue, the Venetians also fail to understand his breed of nobility, which Iago unflaggingly attacks.

Marc Silver plays a blunt Iago, with a soldier's gruff facade that feeds into Othello's trust. Othello knows the honesty of the battlefield, the camaraderie of men fighting shoulder to shoulder, a world where deceit has no place.

The less oily approach in Iago's manner works to remove him from the villain of melodrama into the ranks of a more faceted force. Silver achieves a gruffer villainy, at times veering briefly off into the comic. Thomas Silcott is a striking Othello, young and lithe and of an easy noble bearing.

His Othello is not so much wild with anger as betrayed to the breaking point, ultimately believing Iago rather than Desdemona, whose world is more of a puzzle to him. Exotically handsome costumes enhance his dignified presence.

Jane Longenecker is an initially sunny and forthright Desdemona, all too quickly turned to worry and fear. That there seems little passion between the two flows from the story line of their brief courtship, sudden marriage and Desdemona's hero-worshipping relationship with her husband.

Kingsmen veteran Anne Lockhart, as Iago's wife, Emily, gets to triumphantly turn the trick on Iago when she realizes she, too, has been conned by him.,

Too late, but with fiery conviction, she backs Desdemona's story and gives the lie to Iago's.

Derek Medina is the nonchalantly familiar Cassio, also entrapped by Iago, and Brett Elliott is Roderigo, a dense young Venetian gentleman Iago easily turns to his use.

Playing two roles, Brabantio and later Senator Gratiano, the always watchable Richard Winterstein shows he can be over the top, as the confounded Brabantio when he learns of Desdemona's marriage, and right on the mark, as a dignified member of Venice's ruling class.

The two-story set, with a balcony running across the top, is basically the same as was used for "A Midsummer Night's Dream" in the festival's first play.

The focal point in many of the scenes is a circular platform that can be turned, conspicuously but quickly by hand from the back of the stage, to serve as various settings, most especially the deadly bedroom where Othello does his final deeds after confessing that he has loved "not wisely but too well."
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 27, 2006 3:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hey, great shots. I haven't really seen much of Ann since BSG, so it's amazing to see she looks much the same. Shocked Go Ann!!

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PostPosted: Fri Jul 28, 2006 4:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Beauty is ageless. Or, as Captain Kirk said "Beauty survives."
"The dull mind rises to Truth through that which is material." -Suger

Et verbum caro factum est, et habitavit in nobis: et vidimus gloriam ejus, gloriam quasi Unigenti a Patre, plenam gratiae et veritas.
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