Photo: Quincy Armorer (Othello) and Lana Sugarman (Desdemona). Set in the period of the war of 1812, this brooding, production of the tragic events leading to the murder of Desdemona at the hands of her beloved general, manipulated most heinously by the hateful Iago brings out all the melodrama of the situation. There is the raging father (Brabantio) who can’t believe that his innocent daughter Desdemona (Lana Sugarman) has actually married this Moor of her own free will. A sneering, ironic Iago, raging with jealousy and hate who narrates the story, telling how he has meticulously set the stage for the downfall of Othello (Quincy Armorer) and the death of the lovers.
The individual performances were rather good in as much as each actor dominated his role, articulated his text beautifully and made the drama so completely clear. I especially liked Shane Carty as the viciously revengeful Iago who inspired utter loathing.
Dan Karpenchuck as the heated Brabantio (Desdemona’s father) embraced his role with perfect assurance and seemed to be the most at ease with Shakespeare’s language. Kate Smith as Bianca was also a very pleasant surprise and Lana Sugarman’s delicate Desdemona incarnated absolute innocence making the final ritual death scene a moment of great emotion.
There were also visual orchestrations that were extremely striking, such as the way they transformed the thrust stage into a boat returning from Turkey with the long oars rowing in the wind – a fine touch of elegance fit for the return of a conquering General.
In spite of such moments, the opening dialogues generally seemed rather slow and the play only came to life during the last 40 minutes when events are precipitated by the murder of Rodrigo (Will Lamond) and Cassio (Warren Bain) as well as Shane Carty’s prolonged ironic sneer as Iago constantly provokes Othello’s rage with all his insinuations.
What was especially good in that last act was the way director Ian Farthing seemed determined to portray Othello’s jealousy as a form of deeply pathological behaviour and at that point, Quincy Armorer’s performance truly captured all the furor, the frustration, the thwarted love and the failure the disbelief, the profound loss and the rage that brought his life crashing down around him. Since this was the case, the director might have already suggested a predisposition for such behaviour in the preceding acts to give the character more consistency.
However, accompanied by a deeply disturbing musical theme that told us Othello was haunted by forces beyond his control, Quincy Armorer’s performance became the near ravings of a psychotic as he unleashed a flood of emotion that took hold of the stage and mesmerized the public. John Doucet’s bedroom setting with the flimsy curtain and the soft white bedclothes standing alone on that bare stage became the mystical alter of a tragic misunderstanding that led to an almost unbearably violent strangulation scene.
The rest fell perfectly into place and Alix Sideris as Emilia who reveals the truth when it is too late, was also a powerful participant in that delirium of death. Melissa Morris’ musical accompaniment with her musicians and singers became another voice in the cast of characters that defined itself in very clear terms.
I saw a matinee performance but I couldn’t help thinking that an evening show with all the shadows, and lighting effects would create a much deeper visual impression on the public, as the acting space slowly plunges into darkness suggesting the true horror soon to emerge from the hidden recesses of the general’s mind. There is no doubt that this production of Othello will soon find its rhythm because the cast is generally very good and I came away feeling that I had acquired a new understanding of the play.
For show times consult the web site www.stlawrenceshakespeare.com and for tickets call the box office at 613-925-5788
By William Shakespeare
Directed by Ian Farthing
Set Design by John Doucet
Costumes by Roberta Doyland
Music Direction by Melissa Morris
Fight direction by Dorian Foley
Othello Quincy Armorer
Iago Shane Carty
Brabantio Dan Karpenchuck
Rodrigo Will Lamond
Cassio Warren Bain
Desdemona Lana Sugarman
Emilia Alix Sideris
Duke of Venice Brad Long
Gratiano Ron Klappholz
Lodovico Brad Long
Montano Dorian Foley
Bianca Kate Smith
Various officers, servants, musicians