Monday, April 4, 2016

Othello—Post 5 Theatre—Sellwood area

“Dangerous Conceits”
This, almost all female version of Shakespeare’s classic play, is directed by Caitlin Fisher-Draeger (co-Artistic Director of Anon it Moves Theatre Co.).  It is playing at the Post 5 space, 1666 SE Lambert St. (parking lot in the rear of the building), through April 23rd.  For more information, go to their site at “What a web we weave.”  The play, in actuality, should be titled, Iago, since she is the chief instigator of the action in the story.  Jealously, Ambition, Vanity, Envy and Vengeance are very common themes in Shakespeare’s plays.  After all, where would the story go without them…Hamlet avenging his father and jealous of his mother’s affections toward his uncle; the Macbeth’s and their obsession for power; Lear and his blind vanity, et. al.; and Iago filling all of those traits mentioned above.

In this case, “honest” Iago (Jessica Tidd)) is jealous of Cassio (Lava Alapai), former girlfriend of Desdemona (Joellen Sweeney), for getting a position she felt she deserved, as second in command to the General, Othello (Ithica Tell).  She is also jealous of Othello for (and this is where the motive for all the ensuring mayhem gets muddy) purportedly sleeping with her wife, Emilia (Alex Leigh Ramirez), Desdemona’s maid; and/or desiring Desdemona for herself; and/or is it simple prejudice against Blacks.  But, whatever the reason, her manipulations are what drive the plot forward to its bloody end.

Also there is the none-too-bright, Roderigo (Sean Doran), a dupe of Iago’s, doing her bidding.  And, Bianca (Shannon Mastel), jealous of Desdemona for the attention her lady, Cassio, is paying to her.  In the end, Othello is jealous of his wife for purportedly sleeping with Cassio.  And, poor Montano (Iulia Brezeanu), just a simple lass trying to get by.  What fools we mortals be, sometimes.

The story, therefore, has Othello returning from the wars, a much-praised hero and marrying a senator’s daughter.  She has promoted the young Cassio to her second in command, over her trusted old friend, Iago, a seasoned veteran.  And, from that moment on, it all goes downhill.  When Cassio falls out of favor with Othello, Iago conspires with her to regain her position, by having her plead with Othello’s wife, to intercede for her.

Then Iago goes to Othello and drops hints of a possible illicit bond between her wife and Cassio.  But Othello, wanting physical proof of such a tryst, Iago then enlists her wife, Emilia, unaware of her mate’s devious dealings, to supply her with such an item.  In the end, few survive Iago’s clever contrivances and, as a result, they all pretty much make fools of themselves, fatal in many cases.

What is amazing is that Iago seems to be the smartest of the bunch and the original relationships of these characters to each other, seem shallow, to say the least.  But, as in Life, we reap what we sow and, in this case, the field is a-flutter with flitting fools.

The set appears to be some type of bomb shelter which, if they are constantly at war, is a smart idea.  And why all females (sans one), you might say?  Because there was supposedly a race of warrior women, at one time, called Amazons, who had no use for men, except to procreate.  And, then afterwards, much like the Black Widow Spider, they either killed their mates, or made them servants to do the menial chores around the community.  Quite a reversal from traditional patriarchal societies, isn’t it?!  Anyway, if that is the setting, then it works for me.

And the ladies certainly do show their metal.  Fisher-Draeger is one of the best interpreters of Shakespeare around.  Having seen the highly colorful Winter’s Tale and …Dream of hers, I can attest to her talent.  Tell is always a commanding presence onstage and has a deep voice, perfect for this role.  Tidd plays the villain with total abandon, pulling out all the stops, and enacting pure evil, as if she were the Devil herself.  And Sweeney plays the hapless victim with a lot of spunk and grit, until she realizes the chips are stacked against her and then abandons all hope.  Quite an arc.

Alapai (director of the terrific, Columbinus, last season with the Young Professionals company of OCT), gives us Cassio as not only a bit naïve but also has a sense of false bravado about her.  Ramirez underplays Emilia beautifully, expecting the best from people, until it’s too late.  And the rest of the cast add to this gathering, an odd sense of companionship, in which it is acceptable to sing, joke, love, laugh…and then kill with equal flair.  But it all works.

I recommend this production.  If you do see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.

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