BWW Reviews: OTHELLO - A Horror Story Plays at Mobtown
Othello is playing through November 17 at The Mobtown Players at Meadow Mills. It's the perfect play for this time of year when ghosts and zombies roam the streets and horror and fright are uppermost in everyone's mind. Shakespeare's Othello includes lies, betrayal, murder, and evil at every turn until its inevitable and multi-tragic ending.
There are so many things to enjoy in this production, but they are overshadowed by an ongoing, eerily foreboding musical score behind the entire performance that in some cases overtook the actors completely and in most cases was just an annoying backdrop to the story. We know Othello is a tragedy. We know Iago is evil. We don't need the music building to a fever pitch behind each Iago speech. We get it. Iago, bad.
If you can block out the music to become engaged in the performance, you'll find some interesting performances and techniques. In this production, Iago is played by a woman, Melissa O'Brien. Prior to the performance, I wondered about this casting call. Would it turn the plot into a sexual tug of war between Iago and Desdemona? Would it deteriorate into a country western "Stand by Your Man" plot? It didn't. Ms. O'Brien is so convincing as the evil villain that the fact Iago is played by a woman just doesn't matter. Her characterization of Iago is so slimy, that I swear she actually slithers in some of her scenes as she convinces others to do her will.
Desdemona, played by Madi Ferguson, is anther talented actor in this production. As Othello begins to turn on her, she actually crumbles before your eyes. In one scene where Othello is holding her and accusing her of disloyalty, her entire body shakes in sobs from his accusations. Her wide eyed innocence is convincing, and her childish attempts to correct the course of her marriage are endearing. She's a victim of Iago's insinuations and her world crumbles at an alarming pace.
Contributing to the macabre tones of this production, the costumes and set design are so stark they are haunting. The cast is dressed in black and white only costumes (except for Iago who wears a black suit with a red shirt to distinguish his own evil presence), a minimalist tactic that keeps the audience focused on the unfolding story. The characters play against a stage that has only hanging shear panels of drapery on both sides. These shears become walls to hide behind and corners to huddle in, but more poignantly they become death shrouds as characters face their ends due to Iago's wicked work.
Between the story, the performances, and the minimalist costuming and staging, this production creates that aura of horror that fits perfectly with the season. If only someone could make the music disappear.
Othello plays through November 17 at Mobtown. Check out times and dates at www.mobtownplayers.net.