Saturday, April 21, 2012

Othello, at Marin Theatre Company

(Aldo Billingslea in the title role and Craig Marker as his nemesis Iago. Photo by David Allen.)

In writing this review, I was indebted to the excellent dramaturgical writings of Margot Melcon, resident dramaturg at MTC.

I once interned at MTC, so maybe I'm biased, but I think the dramaturgy that appears in the company's programs is some of the best in the Bay Area. I appreciate the format: unlike that of some of the other well-funded companies around here, MTC's program never overwhelms you with the amount of writing it offers. Pre-show and intermission furnish more than enough time to read. More importantly, the essays are clear and well-written, informative and thought-provoking, all without sounding either too academic or too pulpy. For example, I hadn't thought about how much one can glean just from the full title of the play before reading this:

The character of Othello exists as an outsider in the cultural context of the play Othello, the Moor of Venice. This fact is inescapable: even the title starkly places the definition of who he (the Moor) is in opposition to the community where he lives (Venice). For us, it immediately illustrates that he is an outsider, a stranger in a strange land. For audiences seeing the play in the early 1600s when it was originally written, the significance was even greater. As a Moor, Othello was the personification of barbarism and wildness and Shakespeare set him against the backdrop of Venice, which at the time was considered one of the most refined and cultured of all European cities.

Kudos to Margot for her work. Good dramaturgy like this sure makes a critic's life easier. I only hope my review did more than steal her ideas.

Tomorrow is the last day of Othello's run; info here.

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