Othello Review

Katherine Hogan

I had the pleasure to see the opening show of Othello in the brand new Brunner main stage theater.  Sitting in the second row of the theatre, I could not believe how close I was to the actors and actresses—it was an amazing experience!  Personally, I am a huge fan of Shakespeare (especially tragedies) and so I was very excited for Augustana’s theatre department’s rendition of Othello.  While it was incredibly long (2 and ½ hours with a 10 minute intermission), I somewhat expected this due to the fact that Shakespearian tragedies usually take an extremely long time to perform.
What I was not quite sure of was what to expect by the “modern” take described in the description of the play.  As it turned out, it seems that only the scenery was modernized, which was somewhat disconcerting but actually not overly disappointing for me.  While it was weird at first to hear soldiers use Shakespearian “thus, pox, thine” the language itself is part of the integrity of the play and I am glad that it was kept intact.
The message of jealousy, betrayal, and revenge in Othello is timeless and the new Iraq/Green Zone setting made sense in theory, but I do not feel that it was meshed perfectly.  For example, the main item that “proves” Desdemona’s affair is a handkerchief which I feel is a little outdated for the modern setting. Along with that, the last scene was set in a palace which was confusing, as I was not sure why a soldier stationed in Iraq would be staying at a palace.  However, I can understand why the setting was chosen because a clear correlation can be seen since the original Othello is based in a war zone as well.
Besides my thoughts on the modernized take, the acting was superb.  Notably, I was extremely impressed by Debo Balogun as Othello, Katie Kleve as Desdemona, Keenan Odenkirk as Iago, Tristain Odenkirk as Cassio, and Megan Hammerer as Emilia.  Balogun, Kleve and Keenan Odenkirk did an extraordinary job portraying their lead rolls in this difficult and emotional play.  First-year Katie Kleve dramatically represented Desdemona, and I cannot wait to see what great things she will do with the theatre department in the coming years. Desdemona had one of the most impressive physical and emotional scenes that I have seen in a stage play.  Keenan Odenkirk’s character Iago was equally fantastic and he portrayed Iago’s psychotic tendancies wonderfully.