Promotional images of 'Othello' designed and photographed by Tori Close '14. Courtesy Jessica Adler '14.
The four rows of fold-up chairs packed into Slonim Living room were quickly filling up at 7:28 on May 3, the opening night of Women’s Naked Shakespeare’s production of Othello. The atmosphere was casual and warm, with the actors waiting in place for the performance to begin and the audience separated by only the imaginary fourth wall. Underneath the bright, movable stage lights that illuminated both the stage and the audience, the excitement was palpable and the show was sold out. At 7:34, the audience hushed and the performance began.
Othello is the tragic story of the “Moor” set in Shakespeare’s Italy. In a twisted web of love and lies, Othello and Desdemona fall to the malevolent mind of Iago, Othello’s right-hand man. Although the characters are all decorated members of the army, the action happens within the intrigue of rumor. Iago tricks Othello into believing that Desdemona is cheating on him with his fellow officer Cassio, that he can win Desdemona for Rodrigo, and that Othello must kill Desdemona for her perceived disloyalty. By Iago’s hand, the innocent people in Othello’s world kill each other in a massive final bloodbath only to realize in their last moments that they were only puppets in Iago’s play.
The play is complicated and winding, driven not by fact but by wildly stacked and contradicting lies. The casting was stellar, each actor transforming completely into their character for the hour and a half, fast-moving production. They each had a shining moment in the center of Slonim Living Room, looking deeply into the eyes of the engrossed audience.
Othello, played by Simone Recasner ‘14, was impassioned and created a multi-faceted Othello of extreme emotion, capable of extreme love and hate and transformed by those emotions into his own monster. Powerful throughout the entire production, Simone blew the audience away in the final moments of the show, the killing of Desdemona and Othello’s own suicide. Parallel to Othello was Montana Lampert Hoover ‘14 as Desdemona, a beautiful and pure presence shining through the murky web of lies and mistrust – her song as she foreshadows her own death was absolutely haunting. The purity of Desdemona and the passionate Othello was then contrasted with Iago, played by Lila Mensing ‘14. Her evil, conspiratorial glances while malicious plans unfolded delighted the audience and made the antagonist a crowd favorite, despite the chilling nature of her classically villainous monologues. The Duke, played by Ottavia Brey ‘16 resounded with regal nature. Emilia, played by Tsebiyah Derry ‘14, exploded in the second half of the play to undo the plans of her husband Iago with a beautiful strength. Minou Pourshariati ’14 and Koby Omansky ‘16 as Cassio and Roderigo played complex and exciting characters that were sadly ensnared in Iago’s trap.
Not only were the performances compelling, but the fight scenes came complete with swords and fake blood dripping down the walls. The applause was thunderous as one of Shakespeare’s masterpieces came to a close, and due to the talented direction of Jessica Adler ‘14, earned that applause and so much more.
Running again on May 9 and 10 in the Slonim Living Room, don’t miss this exciting production by Women’s Naked Shakespeare here at SLC.
by Caely McHale '17