×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Othello

The most uneven of "Othellos" is likely to afford a revelation or two, and so it is with the Old Globe's new production under the helm of artistic director Jack O'Brien. O'Brien has a villain so captivating in his cunning that we almost thrill to the unfolding of his sinister designs --- a guilty pleasure, but in the theater, you take pleasures as you find them.

With:
Cast: Tyrees Allen (Othello), Jonathan McMurtry (Brabantio/Gratiano), Vaughn Armstrong (Cassio), Richard Easton (Iago), Scott Ferrara (Roderigo), Sean Cullen (Duke of Venice), David Prentiss (First Senator), Henry J. Jordan (Montano), James Wallert (Lodovico), Christina Haag (Desdemona), Katherine McGrath (Emilia), Darla Cash (Bianca).

The most uneven of “Othellos” is likely to afford a revelation or two, and so it is with the Old Globe’s new production under the helm of artistic director Jack O’Brien. In the Iago of Richard Easton, O’Brien has a villain so captivating in his cunning that we almost thrill to the unfolding of his sinister designs — a guilty pleasure, but in the theater as elsewhere, you take pleasures as you find them.

The production in the Globe’s outdoor amphitheater begins in fiery fashion, with a sterling turn by Jonathan McMurtry as Brabantio, whose anger and grief at his daughter’s marriage to the Moor is conveyed with a first-rate actor’s simplicity of effect; the emotion cuts cleanly through Shakespeare’s language, leaving no barrier between actor and audience.

But emotion takes a back seat as Iago’s machinations move to center stage, though Easton’s finely shaded performance is marked by thoughtful, revealing glimpses into the dark emotional springs of Iago’s ambitions. The emotion of course, is hate born of envy and resentment, conveyed by Easton with an almost casual air that is all the more chilling. His Iago is no oily, theatrical figure of arched eyebrow and evil eye, but a man of frighteningly natural passions, whose intimate asides to the audience make us cozy accomplices to his casual cruelties. Easton makes us feel the surprised delight Iago feels as each turn of the screw drives his designs forward, and with such a charismatic actor in the role it’s impossible not to share in his pleasure.

To counteract the magnetic pull of this Iago’s charm requires a Desdemona and Othello whose ill-starred love must break our hearts, and it is this that is lacking in the Old Globe’s production. When the momentum switches from Iago’s unholy passions to Othello’s misguided one, the play runs out of steam.

Tyrees Allen cuts a fine enough figure — with shaved head and trimmed goatee, he reminds you of Keenen Ivory Wayans — and has both presence and an intelligent grasp of the language, but he’s at a loss to get across the cyclone of emotion that can turn Othello from contented husband to madly jealous murderer in a trice. Such a revolution must spring from a love as passionate as the jealousy that will supplant it; Allen’s smooth, lightly laughing Othello seems incapable of the depth of feeling that eventually finds him writhing in a fit of despair on the ground. Allen writhes gamely, but it’s utterly unconvincing.

Alas he’s matched by the elegant but bland Desdemona of Christina Haag, whose studied, graceful performance is somehow too polished to awake in us pity and terror for Desdemona’s fate. (The only terror mustered is a fear that her cleavage will burst forth from Robert Morgan’s low-cut bodice.)

We watch dry-eyed as she meets her unhappy fate, and it is only when Katherine McGrath’s Emilia registers anger and despair at the death of her mistress that the tragedy is brought home. Such is the force of feeling in McGrath’s superb turn in this small but pivotal role that her death is likely to wring tears that Desdemona’s doesn’t.

With McMurtry’s and McGrath’s fine performances in small roles bookending Easton’s accomplished turn in a larger one, O’Brien’s fluidly staged “Othello” is an oddity — a tragedy in which everything but the tragedy is powerfully played.

Othello

Old Globe's Lowell Davies Festival Theater, San Diego; 612 seats; $39 top

Production: Old Globe Theatre presents the play in five acts (one intermission) by William Shakespeare. Directed by Jack O'Brien.

Creative: Set, Ralph Funicello; costumes, Robert Morgan; lighting, Michael Gilliam; sound, Jeff Ladman; composer, Larry Delinger; fight director, Steve Rankin; stage manager, Raul Moncada. Opened, reviewed Aug. 30, 1997; runs through Oct. 4. Running time: 3 hours, 25 min.

Cast: Cast: Tyrees Allen (Othello), Jonathan McMurtry (Brabantio/Gratiano), Vaughn Armstrong (Cassio), Richard Easton (Iago), Scott Ferrara (Roderigo), Sean Cullen (Duke of Venice), David Prentiss (First Senator), Henry J. Jordan (Montano), James Wallert (Lodovico), Christina Haag (Desdemona), Katherine McGrath (Emilia), Darla Cash (Bianca).

More Legit

  • My Fair Lady Laura Benanti

    Listen: Laura Benanti on 'My Fair Lady' and the Secret to Her Melania Trump Impersonation

    Laura Benanti is now playing her dream role on Broadway. At the same time, the Tony winner (“Gypsy”) is also playing her toughest part ever. Listen to this week’s podcast below: “It’s the most demanding part I think I’ll probably play,” said Benanti, now appearing as Eliza Doolittle in Lincoln Center Theater’s well-received revival of [...]

  • Hamilton West End Production.

    'Hamilton' Panic Over Mistaken Reports of Gunfire Injures Three in San Francisco

    Three people were injured after mistaken reports of an active shooter at a San Francisco production of “Hamilton” caused attendees to flee the theater. CNN reported that a woman experienced a medical emergency — later determined to be a heart attack — during a scene in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s play wherein Founding Father Alexander Hamilton is shot on [...]

  • The American Clock review

    London Theater Review: 'The American Clock'

    Time is money. Money is time. Both come unstuck in “The American Clock.” Arthur Miller’s kaleidoscopic account of the Great Depression, part autobiography, part social history, crawls through the decade after the Wall Street crash, dishing up snapshots of daily life. In the Old Vic’s classy revival, director Rachel Chavkin (“Hadestown”) tunes into the play’s [...]

  • Jake Gyllenhaal

    Off Broadway Review: Jake Gyllenhaal in 'Sea Wall/A Life'

    Comfy? Okay, let’s talk Death: sudden death, painful death, lingering death, accidental death, and whatever other kinds of death happen to come into the receptive minds of playwrights Simon Stephens (“Sea Wall”) and Nick Payne (“A Life”). The writing in these separate monologues — playing together on a double bill at the Public Theater — [...]

  • Michael Jackson Estate Cancels Musical Test-Run

    Michael Jackson Estate Cancels Musical Test-Run

    With an HBO documentary that places strong allegations of abuse against Michael Jackson premiering in two weeks, the late singer’s estate announced Thursday that it’s canceling a scheduled Chicago test run of a jukebox musical about him. The estate and its producing partner in the musical, Columbia Live Stage, said that they’re setting their sights on going [...]

  • All About Eve review

    West End Review: Gillian Anderson and Lily James in 'All About Eve'

    To adapt a crass old adage: it’s “All About Eve,” not “All About Steve.” Stripping Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s sharp-witted screenplay about a waning theater star of its period trappings, Ivo van Hove’s stage adaptation fine-tunes its feminism for our own sexist age — image-obsessed, anti-aging, the time of Time’s Up. Rather than blaming Lily James’ [...]

  • Adam Shankman

    Listen: Why Adam Shankman Directs Every Movie Like It's a Musical

    Director Adam Shankman’s latest movie, the Taraji P. Henson comedy “What Men Want,” isn’t a musical. But as one of Hollywood’s top director-choreographers of musicals and musical sequences, he approaches even non-musicals with a sense of tempo. Listen to this week’s podcast below: “When I read a script, it processes in my head like a [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content