Editor/Publisher, Bina Sharif

Saturday, March 7, 2009



"Othello" is produced by The Theater for The New Audience at Duke Theater on 42nd Street.
Before I go any further I have to admit that I have never seen,"Othello" played better by any actor in my recent memory than by John Douglas Thompson.

He burns with passion and tenderness and elegance the moment he appears on stage and the love for his craft and his sensitivity for his character never ever fades.

"Othello, a tense and heart wrenching tragedy by Shakespeare, when done right leaves you with a sadness and sorrow so real as if you just watched real loss of life right in-front of you and you just sat there paralyzed with emotions and somehow could not prevent it.

Othello is a play about many things, power, love, race, jealousy, rage, suspicion and language. Shakespeare's words are so clear and powerful here that one can hardly breath being afraid that one might miss something.

The production is staged with great simplicity and lack of clutter and the words fly freely without obstacles. Staging is an example of minimalism which for me is always necessary in the theater so the extra props and furniture can get out of the way of the language and what other language does one need than beautiful poetry and wisdom of Shakespeare.
The play's director, Arin Arbus got a great grasp of this brilliant tragedy by Shakespeare and understood that nothing must come in the way of its poetry. She lets her actors feel the language and through that we, the audience are riveted.
Othello, a handsome General, a Moore marries a beautiful lady, Desdemona who is fragile, silky, passionate,honest and sincere wife and a lover and to doubt such a person is a tragedy in itself but Othello who is totally consumed by his love for Desdemona is so flawed in one aspect
that he believes the lies told to him by his venom ridden Iago who is consumed with jealousy of Othello's power and him being slighted by lack of promotion and tries to weave a story of false hood and deceit between Desdemona and Cassio which ends in the murder of Desdemona By Othello and the death of Othello by his own hand when he realizes, (alas! far too late) that it was an ugly lie and Desdemona never gave that token of his love to was all planned by Evil and manipulative Iago.
This production mostly because the way it was done, briskly and clearly and cleanly comes across as a brilliant production.
I can not say enough in praise of John Douglas Thompson. He has the grace, the dignity, the power, the voice. His voice has a special melody in it which suits the classical language.
He has the sensitivity in his body and in his eye and in his vocal cords...which wife would cheat on him ?
Desdemona played by, Juliet Rylance, (the daughter of Mark Rylance, the great actor himself whom I have seen many times at the Globe theater in London) is just superb. She is poised to be a queen who can break with sorrow like fragile petals of a jasmine flower which when crushed by cruelty is no more but still leaves its scent behind for our senses to grieve.
Emilia, Desdemona's companion and handmaiden and Iago's wife doesn't understand her husband's poisonous game till its too late is capably played by Kate Forbes.

If I had any problem with anything in this superb production it was with the actor Ned Eisenberg in the role of Iago. Though he successfully plants doubt and suspicion in Othello's mind about his Innocent wife, Desdemona and is absolutely rude and cruel and disrespectful towards his own wife, Emilia, I could not get deep into his viciousness and malignant nature.
At times I felt while he was winking at us often that his choices were too easy and cute. Some how he was unable to get under my skin in an awe-striking, ominous kind of a presence.

But in everyother way I was totally thrilled and absorbed in the tragedy and beauty of this production. I would just love to see it again.

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