Review: ‘Othello’ at Marin Shakespeare (***1/2)

by Charles Kruger

L to R: Elena Wright as Emilia, Luisa Frasconi as Desdemona, and Dameion Brown as Othello. Photo Credit: Lori A. Cheung.
L to R: Elena Wright as Emilia, Luisa Frasconi as Desdemona, and Dameion Brown as Othello. Photo Credit: Lori A. Cheung.
This reviewer is a voting member of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle (SFBATCC)
This reviewer is a voting member of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle (SFBATCC)

If you follow local theatre at all, you’ve probably heard that the actor playing Othello at Marin Shakespeare this summer is a recently-released convict. His only previous acting experience has been playing Macduff in a prison production of Macbeth, directed by Marin Shakespeare Company’s managing director Lesley Schisgall Currier.* Is he really good enough to play Othello at a professional level, after twenty three years of incarceration and only one previous credit? Or is his casting a gimmick to attract attention to the company?

Throw aside any doubts right now. Dameion Brown is a superb, fully professional Othello, and absolutely deserves to be playing this role. He brings a treasure chest of gifts: physical beauty and grace, a fine (if as yet not fully trained) speaking voice, a full intellectual grasp of Shakespeare’s poetry, and an out-sized emotional life. He is excellent.

In spite of many famous difficulties, such as the puzzle of Iago’s motivation, Shakespeare’s play is a beautifully constructed machine for catharsis. If played well, it is guaranteed to move any attentive audience to astonishment and tears, and Currier makes certain that every i is dotted and every t crossed. His direction is swift and easy to follow.

Dameion Brown’s astonishing performance aside, this production may not achieve the full potential of this masterpiece, but it tells the story well and moves us deeply.

Of the supporting players, Cassidy Brown is a deliciously humorous Iago. (That the actor playing Iago coincidentally shares the same surname as the actor playing Othello is a nice bit of irony.) Brown is known as a comic actor and he uses his comedic skills to good effect. His Iago wallows in villainy like a pig in mud.  He is all the more horrifying for being cute.

Also remarkable is Steve Price, in the relatively small role of Brabantio, Desdemona’s father, to which he brings a surprising amount of depth. Definitely an actor to watch.

Among the female players, Elena Wright is particularly persuasive as Emilia, a woman of exceptional insight and intelligence, whose gradual realization of the true situation dawns with full tragic impact.

The remaining cast members acquit themselves with skill and efficiency.

While not spectacular, this is a production that serves the play well, and is certainly worth a trip across the bridge to Marin.

“Othello” plays at the Forst Meadows Amphitheatre at Dominican University in San Rafael through September 25th, 2016. For further information, click here.

*Please note that in an earlier edition of this post, Leslie Schisgall Currier was incorrectly identified as a producer for CalShakes. She is, of course, managing director of the Marin Shakespeare Company. 

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Rating: ****
(For an explanation of TheatreStorm’s rating scale, click here.

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“Othello” by William Shakespeare. Produced by Marin Shakespeare Company. Director: Robert Currier. Costumes: Abra Berman. Fight Director: Richard Pallaziol. Lighting: David Lam. Properties and set decoration: Joel Eis. Set Designer: Jackson Currier. 

Cast:

Roderigo: Braedyn Youngberg. Iago: Cassidy Brown. Brabantio: Steve Price. Othello: Dameion Brown. Cassio: Jeff Wiesen. Antonio: Glenn Havlan. Lodovico: Richard Pallaziol. Venetian Senator: Mike Monagle. Desdemona: Luisa Frasconi. Montano: Jackson Currier. Emilia: Elena Wright. Bianca: Regina Morones. Ensemble: Christina Chu, Jackson Currier, Caroln Fluehr, Glenn Havlan, Mike Monagle, Bethany Matthis-Montgomery, Regina Morones, Nick Moore, Richard Pallaziol, Steve Price. 

 

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