People! People, people, people!! Finally, a night of theatre I’m thrilled and excited to write about! My only sadness was that I saw closing night’s performance, so if you missed this one, you missed out on a good one!
Shakespeare’s plays are among my favorites on the planet. I love them so very very much, and Othello has two of my favorite characters at the heart of the story: Iago and Desdemona. And this production, people, this production had two of the strongest actors I have seen in a lonnnnnnng ass time on that stage bringing these two characters to life in a way that was fresh, powerful, and moving!
Let us start with the beautiful and amazing Hillary Clemens who played Desdemona. Ms. Clemens was beautiful and a striking dichotomy of strength and femininity from the moment she stepped on stage to secretly marry Othello. Her girlish excitement mixed with her womanly sensuality was refreshing and mesmerizing at the same time! And as the play went on, as she fell more and more in love with her husband, stood up to her father, and lobbied for what was right for Cassio, I just fell more and more into the spell Ms. Clemens weaved around the stage. Every moment was filled with clear intention, stunning choices, and brave movement! Every moment was real and stunning, all coming together to create something that I love to experience in plays I’ve seen before, which is that moment where you hope the end will be different. She was so perfect, this Desdemona, that as she undressed, and stepped into her bath, the knowing of what was to come upon her face, the fear of her fate taunting her as she sank into the water of her bath, and I sat there, wishing and praying for a different ending to this tragedy of the Bard’s, knowing full well my prayers would not be answered.
And when the ending occurred, and the lovely Desdemona’s life was taken by the one man she was absolutely and completely devoted to was done with such a horrific beauty, that it took my breath away. A familiar scene blocked so epically, stunningly violently that I was filled with shock, awe, and absolute despair at the moment Desdemona took her last breath. I know Othello, played by Sean Phillips, was on the stage with Ms. Clemens, but honestly, I couldn’t take my eyes from her throughout the entire scene. And as my eyes filled with tears as Othello smothered her last haggard breath with a pillow from their wedding linens, I couldn’t look away, because I didn’t want to miss a minute. The tears fell for the loss of this beautiful creature who was the shining star of this wonderful production.
And as bright as Ms. Clemens’s Desdemona was, the dark, spiteful Iago was deliciously brought to life by one Mr. Darragh Kennan. Oh, Mr. Kennan, where have you been all my life?!?! Iago, my favorite villain, because his villainy is caused out of circumstance. He’s seeing revenge in it’s purest form, and as the play goes on you can’t help but wonder what would have happened had he not been passed over. There’s a human aspect to Iago that I’ve always adored, and Mr. Kennan played that human aspect perfectly! His opening soliloquy was so brilliant, and set the tone for this amazing production. Mr. Kennan captured the audience from his first word, and held it until his last moment. Much like Ms. Clemens, Mr. Kennan’s choices were brave and brilliant. His intentions so clear, his ability to listen was phenomenal, and his reactions so true and honest and in the moment, he made me proud to be an actor!
His devious plan came to life, his puppet mastery knew no bounds. His interactions with the audience were perfectly placed, wonderfully executed, and I found myself spellbound by this unbelievably talented actor so much so that I was actually disappointed when the story was over. Mr. Kennan commanded that stage, and made every scene he was in stronger, especially when it came to Mr. Phillips’s Othello. I didn’t so much care for Mr. Phillips performance, but I’ll get to that, however, when he was on stage with Mr. Kennan, those scenes were his strongest, because Mr. Kennan brings out the best in his scene partners! He anchored this show so well, that I found myself rooting for Iago because, dammit, he was likeable! Thank you, Mr. Kennan for that performance. I am better for having seen you creating art! Thank you!
The cast as a whole was strong, although I did find Othello to be the weakest performance, which is hard to type, but it’s how I felt. Mr. Phillips came out on a level 10 intensity and volume with speaking his lines. He gave himself nowhere to go, nowhere to grow throughout the show. His choices were not clear, and rather than play his intention, I found him playing his obstacle the entire time, and it drove me nuts. It was hard to stay engaged in the story when every time Mr. Phillips opened his mouth, especially in the first half, he was shouting at everyone rather than connecting with them. He was very one note throughout the performance. Until the end. That level of intensity was beautifully done during Desdemona’s death scene, and when he came upon her sleeping in her bath, it was one of the most beautifully staged scenes I’ve ever seen. And when Othello kisses Desdemona those three times, again, Mr. Phillips had me hoping that maybe, just maybe, this time Othello wouldn’t kill his wife. And his intensity of throwing Ms. Clemens around the stage, of holding her under the water of the bath, screaming out his lines of betrayal, it was beautifully balanced and wonderfully done. So while I was underwhelmed by Mr. Phillips for most of the show, I did truly love his murder scene.
I must also give accolades to a few of the other characters whose performances were wonderful. Bianca, played by the fiery Keiko Green was one of my favorites! She had one of the best exit scenes I’ve seen in a long time. Loved her passion and her fire and her commitment to this character. I also really enjoyed Rodrigo, played by Trick Danneker. If Bianca was walking fire, Rodrigo was walking air! He was adorable, and vulnerable, and malleable and the perfect puppet for Iago to master. His death scene was so heartbreaking, and everything up until then was delightful. I applaud both of these actors on a job well done!
I also have to applaud the designers of this show. The costumes were great on everyone from the soldiers to the women to the Duke. Powerful pieces, bold pops of color, and the white dress that Desdemona wears in the final scenes was inspired. Bravo, Doris Black, bravo!
And the costumes were lit by the brilliant Geoff Korf! Oh, the lights in this show! They were stunning! There’s no other word for them. They created intimate moments, powerful moments, sinister moments with seamless brilliance. And as I said, the moment that Othello comes upon Desdemona sleeping in her bath is one of the most beautiful moments I’ve ever seen on stage. I’d give anything for a photo of that moment. Thank you, Mr. Korf.
The set was also amazing in it’s simplicity. I loved the neutrality of the colors of the set, the genius of the moving platforms, and the ability of the set to turn into a large projection screen for Othello’s dark thoughts to come to life was erotic magic! Loved it!
My hat goes off to the director of this show, John Langs. The concept was clear, inspired, and brilliantly executed. Mr. Langs had a strong team around him to bring his vision to life, and was so lucky to have this cast to bring his moments to life as well. I will be looking for future productions from Mr. Langs, because I was truly moved by this production!
Being as opinionated as I am about theatre, it takes a lot to get me out of my seat at the end of a production to show the actors how much I enjoyed their show, and I didn’t even hesitate to stand at the end of this one. Thank you all for a much needed night of good theatre! You made me a very happy Lady! My only regret is I didn’t go sooner so that I could have seen it more than once.
Adored, loved, and will not soon forget it!
Ciao for now,
Photos from Seattle Shakespeare Company’s Facebook page.