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Shady Shakespeare company is presenting “Othello” at Sanborn Park in Saratoga (see more information below). Written around 1600, “Othello” is a tragic love story that revolves around four central characters: Othello (Michael Wayne Rice), a Moorish general in the Venetian army, Desdemona (beautifully played by Anne Yumi Kobori), Iago, Othello’s ensign (Robert Campbell is superbly devlilish in the role), and Othello’s lieutenant, Cassio (Alex Draa).
Othello, a moor who is also lower in rank, is accused of alluring Christian Desdemona, a senator’s daughter, with his “cunning” and “foul charms”, and is asked a crucial question in the senate, “Did you by indirect and forced courses subdue and poison this young maid’s affections? Or came it by request and such fair question as soul to soul affordeth?” Othello succeeds in convincing the Senator that he did not lure beautiful Desdemon by “witchcraft” but instead their love was mutual and she was drawn to him and fell in love with him because of his sad and compelling stories as a general who fought many wars. “She lov’d me for the dangers I had pass’d, And I lov’d her that she did pity them”, he says.
Iago hates Othello for previously promoting Cassio, and is jealous of Cassio, and plots to get him drunk and then persuades dissolute stammering Roderigo to draw Cassio into a fight. (Special shoutout to Erik Browne for doing a fantastic job in his role as Roderigo). Othello blames Cassio for the disturbance and strips him of his rank. Cassio is distraught and mourns the blemish on his fine reputation and Iago says, “Reputation is an idle and most false imposition; oft got without merit, and lost without deserving.” But Cassio wants his reputation and rank restored and seeks the favor of Desdemona and implores her to persuade her husband on his behalf, to reinstate him.
Iago takes this as a perfect opportunity to persuade Othello to be watchful of Cassio and Desdemona and the seeds for suspicion are planted. Iago masterfully works to create proof of Desdemona and Cassio’s alliance and Othello’s suspicion is strengthened. Herein, where the “green-ey’d monster, jelousy” raises its ugly head that the beautiful story of Othello and Desdemona’s love sharply transforms into a disturbing tragedy that in the end, wreaks havoc and creates mayhem. Despite Othello’s ill treatment of Desdemona, she tells her maid, Emilia (Melissa Weinstein), “his unkindness may defeat my life, But never taint my love.”. And thus Othello who loves deeply, “not wisely, but too well”, sets himself on a path that defeats her life and ultimately breaks his heart. Director Dawn Monique Williams has done a fabulous job and also great kudos to Caitlyn Nichols (Stage Manager) and Jennie Rodriguez (Costume Designer). I call “Othello” a must-see performance of this theater season.
Shady Shakespeare Theater Company makes Shakespeare accessible and entertaining by maintaining the richness of the language while also making it less challenging to understand it by creating a beautiful historical context, with enticing consumes, beautiful staging, and through awesome performance by talented artists. Shady Shakespeare will be presenting “Othello” and “Pride and Prejudice” on alternate weekends at Sanborn Park in Saratoga, until August, 24. For tickets, go to www.shadyshakes.org.