The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.0882 Thursday, 20 May 1999.
Date: Wednesday, 19 May 1999 15:36:57 GMT
Subject: Review of Othello at Oregon Shakespeare Festival
Othello (directed by Tony Taccone) at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival
lives up to their usual high standards, although it falters slightly at
The play begins in an Japanese-like setting. While the audience filters
in, Othello (Derrick Lee Weeden) and Desdemona (Amy Cronise) kneel on a
bare stage. They wear kimono-like robes, but the Japanese styling ends
there. The play begins and they exit without saying a word, under a
pounding, not-quite-melodic soundtrack.
The setting changes to become more Western and modern, but without a
definite time or place. Upstage, a platform runs the full width of the
stage, with partitions flying in front of and behind the platform to
suggest Brabantio's house, the ramparts of Cyprus, and so on.
Iago (Anthony Heald) manipulates Roderigo (John Pribyl) and others with
ease, but without seeming to be overtly evil. Heald plays Iago almost to
perfection. Andrew Borba's Cassio sometimes seems to be a little too
clueless about the events around him, but he never descends into
Derrick Lee Weeden plays an excellent Othello-slowly sliding from
triumph and mastery to his jealous enslavement to Iago's machinations.
OSF performers have a natural ease with Shakespeare's language, and
Othello is no exception. Anyone who finds Shakespeare's verse or prose
difficult to understand should listen to Heald's Iago.
A few cuts were made here and there. With two intermissions, the total
running time was about three hours. The strangest cut was the end,
though. Iago says, "From this time forth, I never will speak word," and
Lodovico (John Hansen) counters with, "Torments with ope your lips."
Then Iago is dragged from the stage, screaming, "No! No!". I found it
odd that Iago-who was implacable until now-should so quickly break his
promise not to speak. After that, Othello kills himself, and the closing
lines are cut. Cassio walks silently up to Othello's corpse, while the
audience waits for the lines that it knows are to come.
Even those who have not read the play or are familiar only superficially
with Shakespeare's work, know to expect a closing speech. Instead the
lights come down and the play is over.
The ending was not the way I wanted it to be, but the play was
excellent, with strong performances from the entire cast.
(I also saw Chicago-the play, not the musical-which was a frenetic,
over-the-top comic romp. Rosmersholm was marred by Anthony Heald (as
John Rosmer) stumbling over his lines. The Good Person of Szechuan was
excellent, with a new translation by Douglas Langworthy.)
Ray Lischner (http://www.bardware.com)
co-author (with John Doyle) of Shakespeare for Dummies