Thursday, August 05, 2010

Opening Night for “Othello” – a Tale of Two Bostons

Two types of dramas played themselves out last night at opposite ends of Boston’s storied Boylston Street, and John Henry was a key player at both venues and events. Down near The Fens, a Greek tragedy unfolded as Henry’s baseball team, the Red Sox, succumbed to the last place Cleveland Indians. The score was an embarrassing 9-1 shellacking. Sox fans in the stands last evening must have felt that they had “loved not wisely, but too well.”

At the other end of the thoroughfare and the opposite end of the spectrum of artistic achievement, the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company was celebrating Opening Night for their 2010 offering “Othello.” Boston’s glitterati were there in force. Before the metaphorical curtain rose over the stage at the Parkman Bandstand in historic Boston Common, we heard speeches by Gov. Deval Patrick, Mayor Thomas Menino, CSC Founding Artistic Director, Steven Maler, et al. John Henry and his wife were introduced, the John W. Henry Family Foundation having provided a generous donation to underwrite this summer’s production.

The play – in five acts – sped by. The pacing was exactly what was called for. Steven Maler’s direction of an extraordinary cast was flawless. The simple yet effective set with revolving stone wall panels, and multiple levels added to the overall impression of professionalism and non-stop action. Among a uniformly excellent ensemble cast, Seth Gilliam as Othello, James Waterston as Iago, Marianna Bassham as Desdemona and Adrianne Krstansky as the maid, Emilia, stood out. A friend who attended with me said: “I will never again be able to see this play without picturing Iago as played by Waterston; he has set the standard for me.”

With Shakespeare, making the Elizabethan language comprehensible and relevant to a modern audience is always a challenge. I knew that the CSC had succeeded in this regard when a 20-something audience member sitting next to me asked: “Did Shakespeare really write that line? It sounds like something I would say to my friends!”

Shakespeare, when done correctly, is indeed timeless. But, time is of the essence if you want to see this praise-worthy production of “Othello.” It will run until Sunday, August 15. Performances run Tuesday through Saturday at 8:00, Sunday, August 8 at 2:00 and 7:00, and Sunday, August 15 at 7:00. Admission is free, with donations asked for to support the work of the CSC. Bring a blanket, chairs, a picnic supper. There are rental chairs available at the venue.

Commonwealth Shakespeare Company website



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