(K. Brent Tomer),
IF YOU see only one production of “Othello” in your lifetime, make it the one which is on at the New York Theatre Workshop (NYTW) until January 18th. Tickets sold out ages ago, but a cluster of hopefuls stand shivering outside before shows in case of returns. They are right to try.
From the start, it is clear something is going on. The entire auditorium is plastered in plywood, with stadium seating arranged in the round. The set evokes an army barracks, with mattresses arranged in rows. Two men are already onstage before the play even starts, dressed like soldiers on break (camo shorts, chiselled muscles, shaved heads) and engrossed in the video-game “Guitar Hero”. If most productions of Shakespeare heighten how remote these works can feel by setting the action at a distant time in a distant land (a place where even American actors mysteriously sound English), this one, directed by Sam Gold, capitalises on the ways “Othello” is not just timeless but also timely. A tragedy about love, jealousy, war, ambition, race and rage, it feels startlingly appropriate in the world of today.
This is Mr Gold’s first Shakespeare play. For a director who tends to collaborate with living playwrights on new work, this marks a departure. Mr Gold was eager for the challenge of a more formally rhetorical play, particularly if his experiment could be off-Broadway….Continue reading