Othello at Marin Shakespeare: “One that loved not wisely but too well.”

Marin Shakespeare’s new production of Othello has found the right actor to play this big man Othello, powerful in body and spirit, thunderous in his approval, thunderous in his despair.  He is ruled by strong passions of which he feels the depth completely, but is unable to understand or govern.  His uncomplicated world-view leaves him unable to see through the thin unsupported accusations of the ensign Iago, who he can only see as his loyal ensign, friend, and he sees and confidante.  In this Othello is tragically mistaken.

Iago’s machinations inspire him to jealousy and the suspicion of his wife’s infidelity, he is overrun, and loses all sense of reason.  His cherished Desdemona on whom he had devoted the most tender of intimacies, becomes in his mind a foul whore whose very existence he can no longer bear. It takes a big actor—big in frame and stage presence, bigger yet in talent, to make this simple man believable, to bring forth the unmeasurable depths of his passion and despair that we of ordinary stature can comprehend and share.  Dameion Brown IS Othello

His bride Desdemona, slight and white where Othello is huge and dark, is likewise unsophisticated, a trusting soul delicately and then passionately played by Luisa Frasconi.   Both have turned to the evil Iago, the soulless turncoat who betrays the trust and friendship of everyone within is sphere, turning them all against each other with bottomless treachery, watching the fabric of this courtly ensemble unravel and picking at it until it comes finally to its tragic, inevitable end.  He even drags his wife unwitting wife Emilia into his unholy scheme.  Played with satanic glee by Cassidy Brown, this Iago will stop at nothing.  Should the fatal duels of his engineering fail, he has NO problem stabbing his foils—his once-friends Cassio and Roderigo, induced into a duel on entirely false pretenses—literally in the back, to ensure their deaths.  At this point, as his evil begins to unfold its bloody covering, the play unveils the beginning of its tragic conclusion.

In an excruciatingly touching scene, as her handmaid Emilia (Elena Wright) unpins Desdemona’s hair to prepare her for bed, an intimate preparation for a final night neither that knows is coming, Desdemona sings a lovely little song, “Willow, Willow,” learned from her grandmother.  When she wakes later that night, it will be with Othello—wrapped in the final expression and conclusion of his jealousy and rage—with his hands around her neck.

Of all Shakespeare’s tragedies, this one is perhaps most tragic in its conclusion.  All is lost, great loves brought to ruin.  It is a special talent from all the actors, and especially from director Robert Currier. to bring this powerful drama to the stage in all its fury, and the audience to its feet.

This play has a particular relevance in light of the political discourse rampant in the 2016 presidential election, where those whose hunger for power use false arguments and accusations to confuse those who are easily misled.  Shakespeare shows how easily this avenue can be taken, and the end to which it can lead.

Through September 25, 2016 at Domincan University’s Forest Meadows Amphitheatre 890 Belle Ave. San Rafael, CA, 94901

Box Office (415) 499-4488

Review by David Hirzel