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Othello, the tragedy of epic proportions

Othello, the tragedy of epic proportions
July 18
11:10 2019

othello-6_webARCHNA ASHTANA

LIVERMORE, California: Against the backdrop of the stunning grounds of Wente Vineyards in Livermore was enacted the story of The Tragedy of Othello with its jealousy, treachery, betrayal, revenge, and, above all, love and honor. Shakespeare indeed meant for his plays to be witnessed live, preferably outdoors, rather than be read about, as exemplified lucidly in this production.

othello-5_web

Michael Wayne Rice, the director, relies heavily on the reimagination of the Bard’s classic tale via racial overtones in the setting of post Emancipation Proclamation, and an introduction by Frederic Douglas regarding men of color in the army and the end of bondage of slavery.

Skyler Cooper’s Othello is commanding as the muscular Black Moor, who, having risen to fame and marrying a white woman, remains insecure regarding his own origins and self-worth, making it easy for him to be tricked into suspecting the worst of his wife. His white ensign, Iago poisons Othello’s mind against his wife, Desdemona (Nicole Odell) with mere hints and suggestions citing circumstantial evidence. The conniving and deceptive Malcolm Rodgers as Iago, plots his revenge when he is passed over for a promotion that he thought was almost guaranteed in favor of Cassio, which leads to ruined relationships and destroyed lives, ending in murder and suicide.

Skillful weaving of scenes depicting a web of lies, deceit and manipulations, interspersed with bonhomie and patriotic fervor maintain the emotional balance, and mellifluous singing, lightens the mood while captivating.

Othello carries his black, slave heritage as a badge of honor, and is tormented by the thought that his wife didn’t love him, invalidating his worth in his own mind, and reinstating that as a black man, he was not deserving of a white woman’s love. Rice’s sensitive direction of Othello’s conflict and Cooper’s lengthy monologues drive home the point about America’s brutal past and legacy thereof. Both Cooper and Odelle play out the doomed relationship passionately, where despite his accusations of infidelity, she remains loyal to him, wanting nothing more than to set the record straight. The tenderness of their relationship rooted in her belief of him and his past, erodes due to his lack of trust, providing Iago the opportunity to take advantage and create a tragic and fatal miscommunication.

Jeremy Gallardo as the delightful Cassio, capering in his guileless way, is painted as the disloyal traitor to Othello by Iago, even though he and Desdemona have genuine, platonic affection for each other. Rodorigo (Mark Vashro) as the rich, pathetic courtier, jealous of Othello’s marriage, even though he could never woo Desdemona himself, becomes an easy and willing prey for Iago’s conspiracy against Othello.

A story of love such as this, not only involves the lead couple, but the loyal and devoted Emelia (Summer Brown), who ends up dying at the hands of her husband, the guilty Iago, defending the honor of mistress Desdemona and convincing Othello of her purity. True to Shakespearean tragedies, the dramatic ending where all are dealt their fateful hands impresses with its finesse of acting and directing.

Photos by Gregg Le Blanc, CumulusLight.com

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