Othello on the St lawrence. A final act that surpassed all expectations!

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

Photo:thumbs_20120708mshakespearefestival10qfs 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

Othello

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

Cast:

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

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