There are a few simple yet uncommon qualities needed to create a masterful production. Shakespeare in the Park is presenting “The Tragedy of Othello the Moor of Venice” directed by D. Lance Marsh. This production has those qualities. W. Jerome Stevenson, born for the role of Othello and Kevin Asselin, born for the role of Iago lead a cast effortlessly in a production as easy to revel in as original Elizabethan patrons.
Sophie Moshofsky as Desdemona is excellent, Mandee Chapman Roach as Emilia is equally skilled. Bryant Belknap as Cassio, Robert Bowman as Roderigo, Richard Rouillard as the Duke of Venice, David Fletcher-Hall as Lodavico and Hal Kohlman as Brabantio are all superb as the create believable and relevant characters in understandable situations. Often, a modern audience is left cold when confronted by Shakespeare, intimidated by the reputed beauty of the language, and confused by medieval English phraseology and attitudes. Under Marsh’s direction these actors bridge the gap without attempting to update the production.
Rachel Spencer as Bianca, Ryan Swartzman as Gratiano, Kody Brown as Hearald also give excellent performances alongside Valerie Sharp, Barrett (Bear) Lile, Dillon Horner, Carissa Carlson, Misael Pando, Chauncey Shillow and Heath Jones, Jr. Whether performing in cameo roles or simply as understudies this cast performs as a Company.
Blind jealousy and prejudice are the main factors of the story as Othello is manipulated into believing his beloved Desdemona is faithless, and the tragedy unfolds through deceit that is only revealed at the end.
Modern viewers can easily see through the manipulations in many of these productions as it is an old story. But in this production, the audience is taken away and can believe as Othello sees, because Stevenson is Othello. Iago is not so transparent that the viewer does not understand the motivations of those who believe his manipulations. This is one of those productions that not only entertain but educate because suddenly the difference between the medieval mind and the modern mind is the difference of only a moment.
Marsh and his cast should be congratulated for this production and devotees of Shakespeare must not miss this “Othello” as those who are not devoted will get hooked. The weather is lovely for most of the performances, the breeze is pleasant and the show is dynamite. The scenery and the mood are wonderful and the costumes by Robert Pittenridge are outstanding. Marsh has excellent instincts in staging and the additional contribution of Kevin Asselin as Fight Choreographer is genuine. Congratulations to Marsh and the fine cast for presenting such a great production for Shakespeare in the Park.
“The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice can be seen at the Water Stage at the Myriad Gardens in downtown Oklahoma City through September 29, 2012. For tickets call 405-235-3700. The box office is open one hour prior to showtimes: 8:00pm Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings or visit www.oklahomashakespeare.com,