By Diana SaengerRarely have I seen an audience so spellbound as by the performances of Blair Underwood as Othello and Richard Thomas as Iago in the first production of The Old Globe Theatre’s 2014 Summer Shakespeare Festival, “Othello.”
Thomas unleashes his first seething words of hate for Othello, not only in verbal form, but also with every movement of his body; the vile face, the clinched hands, the solidity clutched chest.
Iago is determined to do everything he can to destroy Othello because Othello has overlooked Iago – a brave and daring soldier – to promote Michael Cassio to the coveted post of lieutenant instead. Because Othello is in a whirlwind romance with Desdemona, he misses clues about Iago’s deceitfulness. Meanwhile, Iago leaves no stone unturned in seemingly working for Othello and reminding him he’s taken care of any threats against him.
The beautiful Desdemona charms everyone, especially the rich Venetian Roderigo (Jonny Orsini). Iago uses him to further his deadly plot and insists Roderigo pay him money to help him win Desdemona’s favor.
Underwood enthralls in his jubilant love and desire for his wife, yet he’s equally as strong as the wounded husband when Iago convinces him that she’s been unfaithful to him with Cassio.
Thomas commands his character like a puppet, knowing every string to pull at the right time to keep everyone under his control and intertwined in his devious plans.
There’s plenty of ongoing action with incredible actors portraying the supporting characters in this dramatic tragedy — Mike Sears as Brabantio, Desdemona’s father; Mark Pinter as the Duke of Venice; Angela Reed as Emilia, Iago’s wife; and Kushtrim Hoxha as Montano, Governor of Cyprus.
Katherine Roth’s costumes are splendid. Jonathan Hepfer and Ryan Nestor, the musicians who set above the theater, create a sweet and sparse accompaniment that fits so well at key moments.
Artistic Director Barry Edelstein’s direction is brilliant and well thought-out. The minimal set allows the actors in this sizzling drama to move on and off stage like a revolving window display. They kept me high with anticipation for them to return and continue their journey.
F YOU GO:“Othello” is onstage through July 27 at The Old Globe Theatre’s outdoor Lowell Davies Festival Theatre, 1363 Old Globe Way in Balboa Park, San Diego. Tickets from $29 at (619) 234-5623. TheOldGlobe.org