Othello, in the midst of an identity crisis, examines and rejects his status as a servant of the Venetian State. Hungry for political power, he experiments with the idea of self-identifying as white. Desdemona, a Lolita trapped in a caged bed, is a spoiled brat with a mind of her own and a hunger for fame. Shes still deeply in lust for the lover shes lost, while he struggles with racism and white privilege. Egged on by Iago, hovering like a punk-rock bird of prey, and a sassy, transgender Emilia, this is a love story that, just as in Shakespeare, is going to end badly. |
From Stage Raw:
Playwright Charles A. Duncombes drama is ostensibly a riff on the play Othello. Its not an adaptation, mind you, because the structure and plot digress wildly from the Shakespearean original but it is a work involving some of the same themes with basically the same set of characters. Somewhat reminiscent of Stoppards Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, and perhaps even more similar to the undercurrents in Anouilhs Antigone, Duncombes work is a sort of shadow play that emphasizes different aspects of Othello that shift with the theme of the moment.
"Anouilhs Antigone opens with a chorus that notes, There is no help for it. When your name is Antigone, there is only one part you can play, and (you) will have to play (yours) through to the end. The same weary self-awareness is found in Duncombes Othello (R.J. Jones, in a neatly taut and almost peevish turn), who knows from the beginning that his job is to kill Desdemona (Kenzie Kilroy) and who really is irritated by having to do it.
In the plays first scene, Othello approaches a sleeping Desdemona on her bed. They make love and then he suffocates her with a pillow. He launches, appropriately, into Shakespeares post-murder speech, but then breaks off mid-verse. Hes had enough of it! Iago (Andrew Loviska) appears, a video image against the back wall, and sneeringly demands that Othello to get back to it. But Othello responds by questioning Iagos role in the story and indeed, in the culture that presents him as the other.
"From there, things start to fly off the handle. Desdemona wakes up and is revealed as a petulant, childish and shrill young woman, who only married Othello because she wanted a bit of a thrill, and who now resents being forced to take on the thankless role of innocent tragic beauty. Othello dons white face, refusing to be the Moor any longer. Iago, dressed in Joe Orton-esque leather jacket and a pointy twink hair style, swaggers on, taunting Othello about micro- aggressions and White arrogance.
Director Frederique Michels artful staging cleverly takes the familiar characters and pushes them in unusual directions, while exploring intriguing aspects of their motivations that are not usually discussed. The production is full of interesting images and psychological underpinnings: For instance, as Desdemona rants and rages at Othello for not being the man she thought hed be, shes swinging on a trapeze made from red bedsheets. When Iago menaces Othello, hes wearing a wraparound microphone that makes him sound a little like a 1990s self-help motivation expert. And when Jonas dons his white face, he takes on a completely different personality, becoming slicker and more confident in a way that suggests the creepy status quo.
"Jones makes for an unexpectedly melancholy Othello his Moor seems more Hamlet than anything else. Loviskas Iago is so diabolical that he seems to have stepped right out of Hell itself; he seems to represent chaos and uncertainty, rather than any human trait. Ultimately, the play is much more effective as a character portrayal than it is as a drama, as the narrative itself is calculatedly disjointed and non-linear. But Michels trenchant sense of irony and the intelligence of the underlying thoughts in the piece keep us intrigued."
Paul Birchall, Stage Raw
From the LOS ANGELES TIMES
Those resolute renegades at City Garage have been tweaking the Bard all season in a triptych project they're calling The Winter of Our Discontent: Shakespeare in the Digital Age, which concludes with Othello/Desdemona.Playwright, producer and production designer Charles A. Duncombe doesnt so much deconstruct the tragedy of a noble Moor undone by manipulated jealousy as turn its interior workings into an irreverent dissertation on the post-millennial landscape.With director Frédérique Michel and her valiant cast maintaining a jagged emotional pull beneath the High Performance austerity, Othello/Desdemona isnt exactly shy about upending expectations.Its a starkly elegant, international-festival-ready staging. undeniably unlike anything else in town.
David C. Nichols, Los Angeles Times
City Garage at Bergamot Station Arts Center (View)
2525 Michigan Ave. Building T1
Santa Monica, CA 90404
|Minimum Age: 18|
|Kid Friendly: No|
|Dog Friendly: No|
|Wheelchair Accessible: Yes!|