Othello at MTC a dramatic hit

(Left) Iago (Craig Marker) looks on to Othello (Aldo Billinglsea) and Desdemona (Mairin Lee) (Right) Iago on the left incites Othello to jealous rage in MTC's Othello.

OTHELLO, the Moor of Venice: Tragedy by William Shakespeare. Directed by Jasson Minadakis. Marin Theatre Company, 397 Miller Ave., Mill Valley, CA. 415-388-5208 or www.marintheatre.org. Through April 22, 2012.

A powerful OTHELLO at Marin Theatre Company

The trend to produce Shakespeare’s plays in modern concept format is legion. It is a great pleasure to see one of the Bard’s plays mounted in a classical mode. That does not preclude using the neoteric lighting, sound and costumes to enhance his themes and structure and Marin Theatre Company (MTC) has done just that to present a powerful Othello.

It also helps, greatly helps, to have a seasoned director of Shakespearean plays to guide the totality to fruition. Artistic Director Jason Minadakis, having directed 19 of Shakespeare’s plays, has those credentials and this staging of Othello, the Moor of Venice attests to his ability. It also helps to have two great actors to play of Othello (Aldo Billingslea) and Iago (Craig Marker).

Both actors are household names (if you are a playgoer) in the Bay Area. At MTC Billingslea appeared in the West Coast premiere of In the Red and Brown Water, the world premiere of Splittin’ the Raft and The Hairy Ape. Besides being a seasoned Shakespearean actor, in his duties as associate professor at Santa Clara University he teaches Shakespearean acting.

One might initially question the selection of Craig Marker to play the role of Iago since his last appearance on the MTC stage was the Gentleman Caller in The Glass Menagerie that is completely opposite to vile, wicked nemesis of Othello. His performance in this production attests to his brilliant talent. He matches Billingsea’s towering presence with Iago’s machinations hiding pent-up fury.

And Billingslea, who is a six plus tall muscled black man, is physically built for the part and dominates the set with his pitch-perfect dialog as he struts his time upon the stage. You feel the true meaning of tragedy when he descends into violent jealousy leading to penultimate bed-room scene with Desdemona.

Othello, a mercenary Moor, has been elevated to the status of General in the Venetian Army. He has wooed and married the white Desdemona (Mairin Lee), the daughter of a Venetian Senator Brabantio (fine acting by Dan Hiat who doubles in other roles). Iago has been passed over for promotion by Othello for the position of Captain that has been give to inexperienced Michael Cassio (Patrick Russell) whom he hates. Ineffectual Rodorigo (Nicholas Pelczar) is love smitten with Desdemona. Iago manipulates these two characters with Machiavellian skill to suit his purpose. And you know the rest of the story.

Mairin Lee’s performance pales in comparison to most of the cast but she project’s her love for Othello with sincerity and is adequate in the death scene especially with her heart wrenching rendition of the “Willow Song.” Minadakis cleverly stages the bed-room death scene and the deathly violence of the duel between Cassio and Rodorigo simultaneously. It is an exclamation point of all the turmoil that Iago has wrought.

The production crew has created a simple dark claustrophobic Kurt Landisman set, moody lighting by of J.B. Wilson all enhanced and underscored by Chris Houston’s sound design. Accolades go to Fumiko Bielefeldt's costumes and Dave Mair’s fight directon.

Aldo Billingslea is a great Othello with a reverberating voice, regal stature and complete mastery of Shakespearean verse. Craig Marker’s performance beautifully matches Billingslea and his “honest” Iago gains the trust of all those around him while masking his villainous nature. Running time an engrossing 2hours and 45 minutes with intermission.

Kedar K. Adour, MD

Courtesy of www.theatreworldinternetmagazine.com