Guest blogger Danielle Marie Georgiou is a Dance Lecturer at the University of Texas at Arlington where she serves as the Assistant Director of the UT Arlington’s Dance Ensemble. She is also a member of Muscle Memory Dance Theatre – a modern dance collective.
The Dallas Hub Theater and Shane Arts Theatrical Ensemble Repertory (SATER) are at it again, tackling another one of Shakespeare’s great tragedies, Othello.
The play opens on a chilling note with a bombastic Iago played by Tim Shane. He presents himself publicly as an honest man but shows no remorse as he transforms from a trustworthy aid to a sly and plotting villain. Shane delivers Iago’s lies with such conviction that you cannot help but believe him, and you are left doubting your own eyes, and the fairer sex.
But there is no doubt about the authenticity of Othello. David Jeremiah plays him with a quiet elegance while embodying his internal paradoxes. He is strong yet in love, witty yet blinded by faith, and it isn’t until betrayal and jealousy start to destroy him that we see cracks in his steely demeanor. By the end, Jeremiah gives us an Othello stripped raw – your heart breaks for him, as you simultaneously fear his wrath. And you can mar his face, but you can’t take away his handsomeness.
A highlight comes with David Ristuccia’s (Cassio) drunken scene with Peter Cykana, Robert Shores and Shane. Played authentically, it’s a wonderfully comical interpretation of what Shakespeare does best: make us laugh at the stupidity of ourselves then grimace in humility at the violence that exists in us all.
Director Jason Fitzmaurice’s use of space and attempt at including the audience in the scenes is interesting; however, the lighting was too dark at times. One experiment that does work is the use of recorded text. It seemed almost Oz-like, creating a unique textural layer evoking the question of who is really in control.
While the connection between Shane and Jeremiah is palpable, the physical attraction between Jeremiah’s Othello and Jordan Cole’s Desdemona is lacking. Though some emotion is expressed in glances and caresses, there wasn’t an ease between the actors. Cole finally came to life as Jeremiah accuses her of having an affair but dies soon afterward.
As outstanding as many of the performances are – including Morgan Jusitss’ as Emilia and Joel Frapart’s convincing Roderigo – the length of the production is wearing. The ensemble hit the stage with full force, delivering the lines and lies with sharp tongues and quick wit. But they collectively lost pace before the intermission and muddled through the second act, with the exception of Othello’s confrontation of Desdemona. Thankfully, Jeremiah’s commanding presence and emotional interpretation of the text brought the audience back to life.