Thursday, October 13, 2011

*Othello*'s "Powerhouse Cast" -- delivering "Sweat, Blood, and Steel"


by Ladd Wendelin, Star City Blog

“Words are words,” remarks Brabantio (Sibley) in the opening scenes of Flatwater Shakespeare’s production of Othello, which runs now through Oct. 23rd at the Lincoln Community Playhouse (56th and Normal). “I never yet did hear / That the bruised heart was pierced through the ear.”

This is also, in part, what Flatwater Shakespeare and director Bob Hall are consistently great at when it comes to the Bard in Lincoln - their rewarding interpretation of the text, brought to life by top-tier local talent and artisans, masterfully exploits the deeper themes in a manner that is not only enjoyable and entertaining, but accessible to a diverse audience of all ages.

Such was the case Saturday night, with Brad Boesen (Iago) and William Bryant (Othello) leading a powerhouse cast through the sweat, blood and steel of one of Shakespeare’s truly heartbreaking tragedies, fraught with unauthorized love, blind vengeance, and brief candles. With Flatwater, the focus has always been on the performers – or rather their characters – and Shakespeare’s glorious way with words. Hall dresses the stage modestly with a minimum of set pieces to create a concentrated and at times intense production that, even when it loses momentum, is quick to pick up steam and regain the audience’s undivided attention.

Bryant and Boesen are at the heart of the show, and their portrayals of the imposing Moor and his devious military underling complement each other nicely, providing a good contrast that makes the charges of infidelity all the more severe. Bryant isn’t seen on the stage often, but his performance as Othello is a rare treat - as a sincere, unpretentious, ruthless and ultimately gullible tragic figure. Most importantly, his Othello is utterly convincing.

Boesen, meanwhile, assumes the role of the villainous Iago who deftly pits himself against Othello’s authority by convincing him that his young bride, Desdemona (the welcome return of a radiant, well-spoken Amy Jirsa), has been fooling around with Cassio (Cory Misek). As Othello struts and frets his hour (or three, with intermission) on the stage, Boesen plays his Iago with cool eloquence and unassuming poise. Previously seen as the crafty Richard III, Boesen is no stranger to the subtleties and shades of Shakespeare’s most wily villains, and his experience with the type shows. Despite being one of only four females in the cast, Mary Douglass’ Emilia (along with Noelle Bohaty’s Bianca and Marie Barrett’s Woman of Cyprus) burns red hot when Iago’s scheme is revealed in Act V.

It might be safe to assume that set designer Robert Hillestad (who received production assistance from Dustin Witte) took their inspiration from Iago’s line in Act II, Scene 3, “So I will turn her virtue into pitch, / And out of her own goodness make the net / That shall enmesh them all.” To fill the space, Hillestad and Witte have draped multi-colored netting, tattered rope and yarn across the ceiling like traps baited and set, which effectively suggests the unraveling action taking place onstage.

Flatwater Shakespeare and Bob Hall close out another quality season with a tightly-knit Othello, featuring excellent performances from Bryant and Boesen, and minimalistic, yet no less inspired, production values from Hillestad and Witte.

Othello runs October 6th – 23rd, with performances every Thurs. – Sun. at 7:30 p.m., Lincoln Community Playhouse Family Theatre (56th and Normal). Ticket prices are $18 for Adults, $15 for Seniors, Students for $10. Tickets can be reserved by calling 402-473-2897.

Photo: Amy Jirsa as Desdemona and William Bryant as Othello are observed by Brad Boesen as Iago in the Flatwater Shakespeare Company production of Othello. Photo Credit: John Nollendorfs.

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