Thursday, March 05, 2015

The Seeing Place Takes on Othello

The mission of off-off-Broadway theater company The Seeing Place is one that I think everyone can get behind--to make theater approachable and affordable (all tickets are $15). Its sixth season explores gender warfare, victim shaming, racial bias, and police corruption. What better play to kick off those themes than William Shakespeare's Othello? This production, directed by Brandon Walker and Erin Cronican, updates the play through the lens of current relations between the Middle East and America  using modern dress and music, but retaining Shakespeare's original language.
Brandon Walker (Iago), Ian Moses Eaton (Othello), Logan Keeler (Cassio), Photo credit: JHoch Photography
Things are going pretty well for Othello (Ian Moses Eaton), a black Arab, at the beginning of the play. He's recently been made a general and has just married Desdemona (Cronican), a white senator's daughter. But as you probably know, trusted friend Iago (Walker), fueled by jealousy, devises a plan to destroy Othello, convincing him that his wife is having an affair with Cassio (Logan Keeler). If you've seen the play, it's still worth checking out. The actors delivered their lines in a way that I was able to understand them more clearly than I have before. I could quibble with overuse of contemporary touches--the cell phones are sometimes distracting--but for the most part, the staging is exciting, especially during the booze-filled, raucous scenes. For anyone who wonders why Shakespeare plays are still so frequently performed, this production proves why they continue to be relevant.

Othello runs through March 15 at the Clarion Theatre in Kips Bay. The Seeing Place is currently in the middle of a fundraising campaign to make the space its permanent home.

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