Review by Robert Greene
The Quarantine Theatre Project created by stage manager, Marialana Ardolino, yielded numerous engaging projects during this pandemic. One of its more ambitious projects was a presentation of Shakespeare’s Othello.
Bereket Mengistu infused his Othello with a unique sense of serenity. Hearkening back to the origination of the word, “moor,” Mengistu portrayed the warrior as a world weary traveler drenched in Eastern philosophy. It made his descent into jealousy and savagery that much more heartbreaking. This opened the door for a more loving relationship with Taylor Lynne’s more secure and confident Desdemona. This, when seen through the lens of the 21st century, created a more sensuous portrayal. Christopher Young played Iago with a different world weariness. He deftly mixed impatience with calculation to offer us a dare-I-say-it, likeable villainy … or maybe at least identifiable.
The tale of rivalry couched in bigotry was presented simply with compelling performances by a mature group of artists. One imagines Shakespeare done via zoom on an academic level but this was not the case. Ardolino secured a mature group of actors who conveyed the meat of the matter with humility.
For the few who have not learned about this play in school, Othello, a celebrated Moorish general woo’s the daughter of a nobleman igniting the ire of the Moor’s treacherous ensign, Iago. This sets in motion a convoluted plot of revenge that ends in murder/suicide. From opening lines like “black ram and white yew” the plays is thick with the eternal themes of racism, sexuality, and redemption.
Notable members of the company include Bernard Bosio, Anna Cherkezishvili, and Christopher Short. Each infusing their repertory of characters with charisma and total respect of text. Ms. Cherkezishvili took a page from Adrian Noble’s playbook and added a character prop (a period hat) to show unisex royalty. Considering the fact that this play is drenched in repression, it seemed a bold statement. One might wonder if Mengistu‘s choice of green shirt was intentional as well as if Iago sees “the green-eyed” monster in Othello that exists in himself as well.
As It Is In Heaven by Ariene Hutton was also part of the repertory. This rarely done piece explored a cloistered community offering up shades of The House of Bernarda Alba and Agnes of God. One can hope The Quarantine Theatre Project and Marialana Ardolino emerge to bring their ambitious work to the live stage.