Highly Recommended *****
Author and historian Chancellor Williams said “the original Moors, like the original Egyptians, were black Africans.”.
I begin my review by bringing this fact to your attention. What was written a long time ago, still has meaning today. The outsiders, in many instances do not belong. That is what many still feel and believe. “Othello”, the hero of the play bearing his name, is indeed an outsider. In the current production at Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier, director Jonathan Munby brings us to a more modern telling of the tale, filled with love and hate. The time is present and Alexander Dodge’s set is an amazing one indeed. When we enter the Courtyard Theater, the stage resembles a building with garages and several floors of what could be condos or townhouses in an area like Lincoln Park or the Gold Coast. Later, we are taken to battle and the set becomes a war camp with chain link fences, lookout posts (resembling a fort of days of yore) and with the sound (Lindsay Jones, who also did the original compositions) and lighting (Philip Rosenberg) truly takes us to a place far distant from where one would want to be. The changes are made by the soldiers and I must say, efficiently and well choreographed. They are sheer perfection and very military.
The telling of this tale become much easier when you have a cast of players such as the one assembled here. If one truly analyzes “Othello”, one might, in fact, call it a psychological thriller instead of the tragedy it has been labeled over the years. At the very start of the play, Othello ( a powerful performance by James Vincent Meredith ) the “Moor”, a hired general in the Venetian army, is marrying Desdemona (the absolutely gorgeous Bethany Jilliard), a woman of a much higher class. Iago (deftly handled by newcomer Michael Milligan) tells his friend Roderigo (Fred Geyer) who is in love with Desdemona, that all hope is not lost. It is at this point that Iago puts his plan in place.
Iago will convince Othello that his new bride is having an affair with the young officer Cassio (Luigi Sottile). What we witness over the next two plus hours (the actual running time is very close to three hours including a 15 minute intermission, but let me also say, the quickest three hours ) is the planting of seeds cleverly done by Iago and the doubt that we see in the mind of our General, Othello. In the role of Emilia, friend and aid to Desdemona and wife of Iago, is Jessie Fisher and in the role of Bianca, a prostitute who holds the hankie that makes the jealousy stronger, is the very sultry Laura Rook. This is a story of intrigue and jealousy along with passions that become uncontrolled. The emotions run high and this stellar cast under the smooth direction of Munby makes this a theatrical experience that will be a memorable one.
Remember, this is a tragedy, so there will be an ending that will not evoke a smile. Munby has done a masterful job of making the ending one that makes sense to the newcomer to the writings of Shakespeare. In fact, the entire production is easy to follow and understand. As I scanned those sitting in my sight lines in the Courtyard, I could see no one dozing off. A true sign that this production is captivating from start to finish. Well done in every detail.
“Othello”, a signature production of the Shakespeare 400 Chicago Celebration that is in progress now at Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier, will continue thru April 10th with performances as follows:
Thursdays 7:30 p.m.
April 7th 1 p.m. NO EVENING
Fridays 7:30 p.m.
Saturdays 3 and 8 p.m.
Sundays 2 p.m.
Tickets range from $48- $88 and can be ordered by calling 312-595-5600 or online at www.chicagoshakes.com
Students and those under 35 can ask about special $20 tickets.
The Theater is located at Navy Pier and there is discounted parking available in the garage. Bring your ticket to the theater for validation
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “Othello”