KCST Review: Othello
Written by Bwog Staff
Othello is not by any means an easy play to perform. The lines are long, the characters change dramatically over the course of the play, and the bloodiness is abundant. King’s Crown Shakespeare Troupe’s attempt at it was therefore definitely something to rave about, especially considering the tightness of the group’s budget. The audience laughed, gasped, and watched transfixed as Othello transformed from brave soldier to raving mad husband in this past Thursday’s sold-out performance.
KCST’s Othello marked Kendale Winbush’s troupe debut, and he definitely delivered with his leading performance. Winbush portrayed the confident Othello with style, and perfectly executed the character’s ultimate grief and horror. Brian LaPerche was equally remarkable as Cassio, whose drunken scenes left the audience shaking with laughter. LaPerche’s fight scene with Breanne Lucy, who played Montano, was truly one of the highlights of the play.
Madalena Provo and Alice Mottola, who played the respective roles of Emilia and Desdemona, both had their fine moments as well. Provo’s breakdown at the end of the play brought tears to spectators’ eyes, and while Alice Mottola tended to rush her lines—occasionally making her difficult to understand—her performance as the weak Desdemona was overall very strong. A special mention also goes out to Adam May, whose haunting last words as Desdemona’s father stayed with the audience throughout the performance.
Ultimately, it was James Underwood’s Iago who stole the show. Underwood not only had the audience members laughing as he poked fun at and manipulated the character Rodrigo, but he also had them completely enraptured by his soliloquies. Delivering his speeches with the utmost ease, as though he had been speaking Shakespearean English all his life, Underwood exemplified Iago’s haughtiness, and proved to the audience that the character is really a villain whom one really can’t help but love.
The ensemble of Victoria Ugarte and Jesse Cohen was entertaining, if slightly lacking in energy. Unfortunately, the clown played by Kaitlin Kaufman was more scary than funny, constantly crawling around the stage like a frog. Zack Sheppard, however, was perfect as the bumbling Rodrigo, and always kept the audience laughing at his expressions.
Under Mikhaela Mahony’s direction, the production team made a bold attempt to modernize many aspects of the play; while this could occasionally be conceived as forced, the play definitely struck closer to home on account of the characters’ contemporary mannerisms and the modern-style costume design. The props were few, but they were consistently well-used, particularly Iago’s mask and the bed that later became a table (and, of course, the strawberry handkerchief that famously serves as a token of infidelity). The lighting was also minimal and focused mainly on the character’s faces, but it certainly did the job. The sound, on the other hand, was simply amazing; the chilling music and noises of nature perfectly augmented the drama occurring on stage.
Unless you’re a die-hard Shakespeare fan, KCST’s Othello will likely strike you as overly long; the production stuck very closely to the text, and at a full three hours, it might not be feasible for some. But if you love Othello and want to see a modern, funny version of it, go see this production; it’s a spectacular showcase for some of the most skilled actors and designers at Columbia.