A play that has a great tragic title character and touching leading lady, but often seemed to be more about its villain — the epitome of evil — is being staged through Sept. 29 by Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park as the company's season finale.
The castle-like set, with a tower, balcony and bridges over a built-in moat at the Myriad Gardens Water Stage, facilitated early scenes in which “Othello, the Moor of Venice,” emerged as a kind of superhero.
W. Jerome Stevenson brought a powerful physical presence to the part of a man who has no trouble commanding the stage and others militarily, but proves increasingly unable to control his own emotions.
In so doing, he rose from a two-dimensional, comic book-style hero, saving the city from the Turkish threat, to become a divided, deeply human figure, destroyed by the “green-eyed monster” of jealousy and doubt.
Sophie Moshofsky conveyed the naivete and vulnerability as well as youthful passion of Desdemona, who has secretly married Othello at the play's outset and seems to almost accept her fate in its tragic finale.
Hal Kohlman forcefully conveyed the angry reaction of Desdemona's father in a scene which suggested how taboo — and titillating — the subject of interracial marriage must have been in Shakespeare's day.
Mandee Chapman Roach had some of the play's best moments, in dramatic terms, when she finally accused her husband, Iago, bringing him to ruin, but too late to save her friend, Desdemona, or herself.
But it was Kevin Asselin's performance as Iago, who sometimes seemed bent on destroying Othello for the sake of destroying him, that provided the play with much of its grim fascination. A force of human nature's dark side, Asselin's Iago made the audience an uncomfortable part of his plan to take advantage of Roderigo's love for Desdemona, and Cassio's love for one drink too many.
Robert Bowman portrayed Roderigo as just enough of a “fool for love,” while Bryant Belknapp gave the right foursquare, slightly clueless quality to Cassio, whose promotion over Iago triggers the action.
Directed by D. Lance Marsh, “Othello” could seem long and melodramatic at times, but kept drawing you back with the sheer theatricality onstage. Boasting excellent period costumes designed by Robert Pittenridge, original music by Davis Good, and scarily believable fights choreographed by Asselin, it is recommended during its run.
— John Brandenburg