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Othello’ ensemble cast wows audience

Meghan Thomassen | Monday, September 23, 2013

“Excellent wretch! Perdition catch my soul, but I do love thee! And when I love thee not, Chaos is come again.”

So said the unfortunate Venetian general Othello after he discovered his new wife, Desdemona, was unfaithful – or so he was told.

Last week Notre Dame welcomed the Actors from the London Stage for their hypnotic and sensual performance of William Shakespeare’s “Othello.” With only five players, a few chairs and a briefcase filled with props, the ensemble set up shop in Washington Hall Monday through Sunday night. For such a difficult and serious play, the Actors expertly used their wit and deep knowledge of the text to appeal to the diverse audience, who gasped, laughed and cried throughout the entire two-and-a-half-hour show.

In a tragedy of rumor, lies and love too passionate, Shakespeare’s “Othello” allows his treacherous ensign, Iago, to ensnare his mind with jealous thoughts. Desdemona could not be a more virtuous or beautiful woman, but Othello is equally blinded by his rage as he is by his love. From there the happy couple’s life spirals down, down, down, until Othello loses all.

The lean cast list meant all actors in the company played multiple parts. In some cases, the actors’ double or triple personalities leant humor to the script, but after the first few scenes, it became easier to watch the players seamlessly morph from one character to the next. The unity of voices and movements highlighted the text’s rhythm, rhyme and philosophy.

Alinka Wright (starring as Desdemona, Baianca, Montano, Second Senator, Officer) was enchanting to watch on stage, especially when she had to woo herself as both Desdemona and as the officer. Richard Neale (starring as Iago, Duke, Gentleman) played the villain perfectly, and the audience could empathize completely with Jack Whitam’s (Cassio, Brabantio, Lodovico, Officer) desire and frustration. Even when the scenes became hysterical and a little over-done, the actors never broke character(s) or allowed one personality to tinge the other.

The Actors from the London Stage will return in the spring of 2014 to perform “As You Like It” and “Much Ado About Nothing” in the fall.