Tuesday, September 20, 2016

William Shakespeare’s The Clone Army Attacketh: Star Wars Part The Second by Ian Doescher (2015) Book Review

Attack Of The Clones had possibly the weakest script of the six Star Wars films (yes, six, as I don’t count that awful Force Awakens movie), but combining that material with Shakespeare certainly helps a great deal. For example, it improves upon those awful lines about sand being coarse. As with previous books, The Clone Army Attacketh is divided into five acts and is presented largely in iambic pentameter.

The prologue is delivered by the Chorus as a sonnet, and its first line contains a reference to Macbeth: “All hurly-burly goes the galaxy” (p. 7). In the first scene of Macbeth, the second witch says, “When the hurlyburly’s done.” Padme’s first line is the first line from The Merchant Of Venice (in that play, spoken by Antonio): “In sooth, I know not why I am so sad” (p. 10). This book jokes lightly with the fact that in the film Anakin was played by a different actor than in The Phantom Menace while Padme was played again by Natalie Portman (with only three years between films): “Though I feel I have ag’d but little since/I last did see him, back on small Naboo,/The change in him doth tell of many years/That evidently fill’d the interim” (p. 18).

As in The Phantom Of Menace, here Jar Jar Binks, when left alone, speaks with eloquence, his clown speech a sort of disguise. “I chose, aye, long ago, to play this role/And I shall play the part unto the end./What would they say if Jar Jar suddenly/Spoke as they do, or show’d an aspect wise?/Why, they would think me mad e’en as I spoke/More sanely than I ever did before” (p. 22). And later Jar Jar even refers to Hamlet’s speech to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern: “They would play me as though I were a pipe,/With stops and whistles made for their employ” (p. 113). As in earlier volumes of this series, characters who did not speak in the films are given speeches here, such as Zam Wesell’s probe droid. Also, the Reek, Acklay and Nexu speak, acting as the three witches from Macbeth (the Acklay has the “hurlyburly’s done” line).

This book contains plenty of direct references to Shakespeare’s works. Palpatine, in an aside, says, “What fools these Jedi be!” (p. 39), which is a play on Puck’s “Lord, what fools these mortals be!” from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. And Rumor later refers to Puck when he says “to my puckish will shall he be bent” (p. 62).

The love story between Anakin and Padme (one of the film’s weaknesses) makes use of The Taming Of The Shrew. Anakin says, “Come, come, thou wasp: thine hidden secret shout” (p. 72). Padme responds, “If I be waspish, best beware my sting.” Anakin says, “My remedy is, then, to pluck it out.” This, of course, refers to the famous wooing scene of the play. (Anakin will return to Shrew later when he says, “He that knows better how to tame a beast,/Now let him speak; ‘tis charity to show.”) The Anakin and Padme love story makes references to other plays as well, including The Two Gentlemen Of Verona, when Anakin says “What light is light, if Padme be not seen?/What joy is joy, if Padme be not by?” (p. 74). (In the play, Valentine says, “What light is light, if Silvia be not seen?/What joy is joy ,if Silvia be not by?”) Anakin also quotes Love’s Labour’s Lost, saying, “They are the books, the arts, the academes,/That show, contain, and nourish all the world” (p. 75), words spoken by Berowne in Act IV. Anakin also borrows a line from Lysander from A Midsummer Night’s Dream: “The course of true love never did run smooth” (p. 77). Padme gets into the game too, using the words of Rosalind from As You Like It: “I pray thee, do not fall in love with me,/For I am falser than vows made in wine” (p. 78), though actually Rosalind says, “I pray you, do not fall in love with me.” She also quotes Viola from Twelfth Night: “O, time! Thou must untangle this, not I;/It is too hard a knot for me t’untie” (p. 79).

At Shmi’s death, Anakin borrows much of Macbeth’s famous speech, saying, “My mother, O! She should have died hereafter,/There would have been a time for such a word./Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow/Creeps in this petty pace from day to day/To the last syllable of recorded time,/And all our yesterdays have lighted fools/The way to dusty death. On, on, lightsaber!” (p. 101). Of course, Macbeth says, “Out, out, brief candle,” not “On, on lightsaber.” And Owen, upon learning of Shmi’s death, sings a funeral dirge that might remind you of Ophelia’s first song of Act IV. Anakin soon quotes from Othello, mentioning “the green-eyed monster, jealousy” (p. 106). And then from Hamlet, “they did make love to this employment” (p. 106).

C-3PO also refers to Hamlet when he says, “O, what a piece of work’s humanity –/How infinite in faculty! In form/And moving, how express and admirable!” (p. 121). C-3PO then acts the part of Mercutio from Romeo And Juliet, saying, “Aye, ask for me/Tomorrow, you shall find me a scrap droid!” (p. 123). (Mercutio says, “ask for me tomorrow and you shall find me a grave man.”) C-3PO even acts as Bottom from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, saying: “Have they all stolen hence, left me asleep?/R2, I’ve had a most rare vision, yea:/I’ve had a dream, past wit of droid to say/What dream it was: aye, I were but an akk,/If I did go about t’expound this dream./Methought I was – yet no droid can tell what./Methought I was – and too, methought I had – /But I am a patched fool, if I/Will offer to say what methought I had./The eyes of droids have never heard, the ears/Of droids have never seen, droids’ circuitry/Not able been to sense, nor programming/Conceive, nor e’en droids’ core to make report,/What my dream was. I’ll speak no more of it” (p. 143). And, if you hadn’t caught wind of the reference, R2 adds, “It seems the droid hath bottom’d out his sense” (p. 143).

Even the stage directions bring to mind certain plays, as Doescher writes, “Obi-Wan hides behind an arras” (p. 95), making us think of poor Polonius. Ian Doescher adds a scene between two Jedi, a scene in which he plays with the idea of these stories being told at some point in the future in a “galaxy far, far away” (p. 110). Doescher mixes in other, non-Shakespearian references as well. For example, he has C-3PO say, “We’re not in Tatooine,/Not anymore: O, there’s no place like home!” That’s obviously a reference to The Wizard Of Oz. And at one point Obi-Wan Kenobi actually refers to a popular Kenny Rogers song: “’Tis good to know when holding maketh sense,/’Tis better yet to know when one should fold,/’Tis best to know when one should walk away,/Yet now the time hath come for me to run!” And if you might have not have caught the reference yet, he adds, “I’ll join the others – yea, no gambler I!” (p. 133).

William Shakespeare’s The Clone Army Attacketh: Star Wars Part The Second was published in 2015 by Quirk Books.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Shakespeare References in Can’t Buy My Love: How Advertising Changes The Way We Think And Feel

Jean Kilbourne’s Can’t Buy My Love: How Advertising Changes The Way We Think And Feel (originally published as Deadly Persuasion: Why Women And Girls Must Fight The Addictive Power Of Advertising) contains several Shakespeare references. Even the cover contains a Shakespeare reference, as it lists the foreword as being “By Mary Pipher, Author of Reviving Ophelia.” In that foreword, Pipher writes, “They need to learn not only that all that glitters is not gold, but also that it is sometimes poison” (p. 13). That is a reference to The Merchant Of Venice, when the gold casket is opened and the message inside is read. That message begins, “All that glisters is not gold.”

The next reference is to All’s Well That Ends Well. Jean Kilbourne writes, “Writer and cartoonist Mark O’Donnell suggests that someday there will be tie-ins in literature as well, such as ‘All’s Well That Ends With Pepsi,’ ‘The Old Man, Coppertone and the Sea,’ and ‘Nausea, and Periodic Discomfort Relief’” (p. 61). A little later Kilbourne writes, “And an ad for shoes says, ‘If you feel the need to be smarter and more articulate, read the complete works of Shakespeare. If you like who you are, here are your shoes’” (p. 65). Then: “‘Deny yourself an obvious love affair?’ asks an Audi ad, featuring a picture of the car. ‘Didn’t you read Romeo & Juliet?’” (p. 98). Yes, Shakespeare is mentioned in several advertising campaigns. Kilbourne writes: “A 1997 Lexus campaign, introduced just before Halloween, looks like an ad for a slasher film. In one version, the car emerges, as if from flames, from a forest of bare, blackened trees against an orange sky. The copy, in the script of witchcraft and alluding to Shakespeare’s Macbeth, says: ‘Distant thunder, cold as stone,/a V8 screams down from its throne./One by one, each car succumbs./Something wicked/This way comes’” (p. 105). It is interesting that the witch’s line “Something wicked this way comes” is presented as two lines in the ad. The book contains another reference to Macbeth: “Alas, the parody ‘Absolut Impotence’ comes closer to the real relationship between alcohol and sex. Perhaps Shakespeare put it best when he said that drink ‘provokes the desire, but it takes away the performance’” (p. 249). That is a reference to the Porter’s speech. In the notes at the end of the book, Kilbourne writes: “‘Perhaps Shakespeare put it best’: Shakespeare, W. Macbeth. Act 2, Scene 3” (p. 329). The book also contains a reference to The Tempest: “O brave new world, where Addiction is Freedom and Conformity is Rebellion” (p. 310).

There are even a couple of Shakespeare references in the bibliography. The first: “Mohl, B. (1999, January 13). Lend them your ear, and your call is free. Boston Globe, A1, A10” (p. 343). “Lend them your ear” is of course a reference to the beginning of Antony’s famous speech from Julius Caesar. The second is another reference to Reviving Ophelia: “Pipher, M. (1994). Reviving Ophelia: saving the selves of adolescent girls. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons” (p. 345).

By the way, unrelated to Shakespeare, but related to another passion of mine, Mary Pipher, in the foreword, writes: “As songwriter Glen Brown wrote, we are all living in ‘one big town’” (p. 13). She meant, of course, Greg Brown, who has a song (and an album) titled “One Big Town,” and a line from that song goes, “One big town/We're living in one big town.” You’d think as this book was previously published under another title, that by now she would have corrected that. Oh well. If you get a chance to see Greg Brown in concert, you should definitely check him out.

Can’t Buy My Love: How Advertising Changes The Way We Think And Feel was published in 1999. The edition I read was the Touchstone Edition from 2000.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Shakespeare References in The Herbal Bed

The Herbal Bed is not an adaptation of one of Shakespeare’s plays, but rather is an original work. Written by Peter Whelan, The Herbal Bed is about William Shakespeare’s daughter Susanna, and specifically based on an event from 1613 in which she was accused of adultery. William Shakespeare himself does not appear as a character in this play, though he is mentioned several times. As far as we know, 1613 was the year he stopped writing and lived full-time in Stratford-Upon-Avon, and this play posits that he was sick, perhaps even suffering from gonorrhea.

The last name is first mentioned by Jack Lane, the person who makes the accusation against Susanna: “Oh Susanna Shakespeare…how you did shake!” (p. 26). And just before that, Jack refers to Shakespeare: “The time you ran from your father’s to the river singing all the way” (p. 26). Rafe Smith, the man Susanna is accused of having relations with, at one point refers to Susanna as “the poet’s daughter” (p. 37). And when Susanna is questioned, Barnabus Goche refers to Shakespeare’s work in a negative way: “He says you are not easily detected in your amours because you inherit from your father the art of dissembling. He is of the theatre, is he not?” (p. 71). He then continues, “He acts… so he dissembles” (p. 71).

Susanna mentions Shakespeare’s lack of activity, when talking about him seeing his granddaughter: “Father does so little now. You know how he dotes on the sight of her. Whatever light went out in him she kindles it again” (p. 30). And soon after that, Susanna mentions Shakespeare’s illness: “He won’t admit he’s ill. Take careful note of how he seems today” (p. 31). And then Susanna mentions her greatest fears: “One is that my father may die…and we’ll be helpless to prevent it” (p. 33). Hester confirms Shakespeare’s illness: “Oh he’s very ill. So much so I cried for an hour” (p. 39). Susanna speaks to her husband, John Hall, about it: “I’m not sure… a fever of some kind that comes and goes… he won’t talk to me about it in case I tell you… and he won’t let mother send for you. I tried to get Hester to question him while she was there but he realised right away” (p. 42). And by the end, Shakespeare is coming to see John Hall, as Susanna says: “It’s father… he’s agreed to be brought over to us. We’ve got the room ready” (p. 79). John asks, “Your father… did he have the tincture for the ulcers?” (p. 80). And that’s when Susanna admits to thinking her father had gonorrhea: “It’s what I thought he had then, yes” (p. 80). John replies, “You must know… he’s far beyond that now” (p. 80). He then rails against himself, “For suddenly here’s the father of my own wife desperate for cure and here am I… helpless!” (p. 80). At the end, Susanna says, of her father: “He was a liar, too. Must have lied to my mother every time he came home. Yet when he was with us… we were so warm” (p. 81).

New Place is also referred to a couple of times in this play. Susanna says to Hester, “No… I’ll do it… for I wouldn’t want you late at New Place” (p. 30). Later Hester says, “Because an hour before I had gone round to bring back milk from the evening milking to New Place” (p. 76).

By the way, the book mentions that this play “was first produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company at The Other Place, Stratford-upon-Avon, England on May 8, 1996” (p. 3), with David Tennant and Joseph Fiennes in the cast. The book was published in 1999.

Friday, August 26, 2016

The Tempest (Independent Shakespeare Company's 2016 Production) Theatre Review

It is always such a treat to see The Independent Shakespeare Company perform in Griffith Park. This season they’re doing Richard III and The Tempest, and last night I was able to catch a performance of The Tempest. The set for this production is fairly simple, with two entryways upstage, for the focus here is on the actors – their performances, and of course Shakespeare’s dialogue.

Approximately thirty minutes before the start of the show, oceans sounds begin playing through the speakers at the sides of the stage. This was actually quite soothing, and it helped me focus on something other than the two silly girls next to me who used the word “like” more than all other words combined. (I’m considering purchasing a little hotel desk bell and hitting it every time someone like that says “like,” just for a bit of fun.) Then at 7:10 p.m., a member of the company came out in a yellow raincoat, yellow rain hat and rubber boots to make some brief announcements. And then the play was off and running.

There is some modern dress used in this production, particularly in the opening scene on the boat, in which the boat crew is wearing that yellow rain gear. The boat’s captain (or Master, as identified in the text) enters in a somewhat modern captain’s outfit, while deliberately cheesy music plays on the speaker, making us think of The Love Boat. There is also the use of a megaphone (later, Ariel will use it when saying “Thou liest” to Caliban). Sebastian, Antonio, Gonzalo and the rest, however, are in period costumes, all of bright red fabrics. The cast does an excellent job with this scene, their movements really making me feel I was on a tossing vessel.

In the second scene, Prospero (Thom Rivera) enters first from upstage, with Miranda (Erika Soto) entering behind him once he has moved downstage. Both are barefoot. Prospero’s magic garment is a sleeveless robe whose pattern and colors bring to mind the ocean. This production does some interesting things with this scene. First, several spirits dressed in black are introduced, and they bring out a chair for Miranda to sit upon, even lifting her at one point, as if she were floating upon the sea. Also, when Prospero says, “thy false uncle,” he sees his brother, who steps onto the stage from within the audience. So it is Prospero that becomes distracted, not Miranda, and so though his next line “Dost thou attend me” is still directed at Miranda, it is a way of shaking off his own distraction. This is such a great touch. And then when he mentions Gonzalo, Gonzalo appears upstage. Gonzalo then hands him a book on Prospero’s line about his books. Miranda’s “Would I might/But ever see that man” then has another significance, as she can’t see him there onstage. By the way, Erika Soto is absolutely adorable as Miranda, possessing the right youthful energy and outlook.

As is usually done, Ariel is here played by a woman (Kalean Ung), though dressed in trousers, a vest and old flight goggles and hat, giving the character a somewhat gender-free vibe. In the text, Ariel is clearly male, but here the more fluid gender makes the relationship between Prospero and Ariel more interesting. Ariel also has wings. I love the excitement and pride Ariel has when the describing the work she has done for Prospero. Then Ariel is able to change tones greatly and give a strong reading of “Is there more toil?

Caliban (Sean Pritchett) enters from within the caves far off to the side of the audience. (The Independent Shakespeare Company has its stage by the site of the old zoo in Griffith Park, and this is the first time I can recall the cast making use of those caves. It is a really wonderful touch.) Caliban’s eyes are of two different colors; he wears a sort of neck brace (showing that Prospero has perhaps taken some care of him) and one shoe (which you might imagine was once Prospero’s). Miranda’s words to him do quiet and still Caliban, at least for a moment, which is nice, showing that Caliban in some way does like her, has perhaps allowed himself to be tamed by her (though has mixed feelings about this).

When Ariel sings for Ferdinand (Evan Lewis Smith), she is backed by a band of spirits playing accordion and percussion. During this, Prospero and Miranda stand upstage left, with Miranda facing away from the action and the audience, clearly under Prospero’s spell, while Prospero watches all. When Prospero wakes Miranda to look onto Ferdinand, Ferdinand walks slowly out into the audience before turning to see Miranda. After Prospero disarms Ferdinand, he hands the sword to Ariel, which shows just how much he trusts that spirit.

The second act begins with Alonso (Joseph Culliton) calling out Ferdinand’s name before Gonzalo (Lester Purry) begins his speech. William Elsman is funny as Sebastian when poking fun at Gonzalo. And Faqir Hassan is excellent as Antonio, when working to convince Sebastian to murder Alonso. Sebastian and Antonio put their swords away, so Gonzalo’s “Let’s draw our weapons” prompts them to take them out again, rather than the line being directed at himself and Alonso, another nice touch.

Trinculo (Lorenzo Gonzalez) enters from the audience. He is very much the clown in this production, even sporting a red nose. The majority of modern references in this production come from him and from Stephano. For example, Trinculo delivers “sing i’ th’ wind” to the tune of “Singing In The Rain.” On “Legg’d like a man,” Trinculo touches Caliban’s leg. His hand then drifts toward Caliban’s crotch on “and,” but Caliban’s slaps his hand away, leading Trinculo to finish the line, “his fins like arms.” So there are strong and humorous sexual suggestions aimed at Caliban from Trinculo. Stephano (David Melville) wears a red bowler and carries a walking stick. His nose is red too, but from drink. It’s interesting because of the costume choice to clothe that entire party in red, for it makes Trinculo and Stephano even more red, thus even more a part of the group, though they are separated from the rest for most of the play. When Caliban sings his farewell to his old master, he is backed by the spirits in black on percussion.

Some of the silliness with Trinculo falls a little flat, such as the play on him holding up three fingers and then four when saying “there’s but five upon this isle.” But most of what Trinculo and Stephano do is quite funny and effective. I love that at the end of Act III Scene ii, Stephano follows Ariel upstage right, while Caliban tries to lead him downstage left; this of course being when he says he’ll follow the monster, another wonderful touch. There are more modern references and jokes during the wardrobe rack bit.

This production includes the pageant scene, with Iris, Ceres and Juno singing, each in a bright dress. Ariel also joins in their song. Juno hands Miranda her flowers, a sweet touch. Another fantastic moment is when Ariel delivers the “were I human” line to Prospero. It’s a great moment between the two characters, and we see the change in Prospero’s demeanor. I also really like the ceremony with which Ariel removes Prospero’s magic garment and replaces it with his red robe (to match the others, signifying his return to the normal state of relations). Ferdinand and Miranda are wheeled in on a chest while playing chess, rather than being revealed upstage. Ariel is given a proper exit in this production, and after being set free, runs happily straight out into the audience. The epilogue is included.

There is one intermission, coming at the end of the first scene of Act III. Leading into that intermission, Stephano enters from the audience, asking for wine, and joking with an audience member who had brought wine. Stephano, Trinculo and Caliban then go on stage to mention the concessions and so on. The intermission lasts approximately fifteen minutes. The show ends just before 10 p.m. This production of The Tempest was directed by Matthew Earnest, and runs this weekend and next weekend (actually, Wednesday through Sunday), with the last performance being on September 4th. The show is free, but donations are accepted and encouraged.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Shakespeare References in The Homecoming

Harold Pinter’s play The Homecoming doesn’t contain Shakespeare references, but the book mentions Shakespeare at the beginning: “The Homecoming was first presented by the Royal Shakespeare Company at the Aldwych Theatre on 3 June 1965.” And then: “The play was presented by the Royal Shakespeare Company and Alexander H. Cohen at the Music Box Theatre, New York, on 5 January 1967.”

The Homecoming was first published in 1965. The Faber And Faber edition that I read was published in 1991.

Shakespeare References in Goldberg Street: Short Plays And Monologues

David Mamet’s Goldberg Street: Short Plays And Monologues contains a couple of Shakespeare references. The first comes in the first line of the introduction: “Tradition has it that Shakespeare finished King Lear and handed it to Richard Burbage saying: ‘You son-of-a-gun, I’ve finally written one you can’t perform’” (p. vii). The second comes in a piece titled “The Spanish Prisoner”: “a knight rides out and, you know him by his shield, or as the Bard says, ‘Reputation’” (p. 26). In Othello, Cassio laments: “Reputation, reputation, reputation! Oh, I have lost my reputation! I have lost the immortal part of myself, and what remains is bestial. My reputation, Iago, my reputation!” Part of Iago’s response reads, “Reputation is an idle and most false imposition, oft got without merit and lost without deserving.”

There is another possible Shakespeare reference in the piece titled, “All Men Are Whores: An Inquiry.” Mamet writes, “We are the stuff that rocks are made of” (p. 196), which is possibly a play on Prospero’s line “We are such stuff/As dreams are made on” from The Tempest.

Goldberg Street: Short Plays And Monologues was published in 1985 by Grove Press.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Othello (Shakespeare By The Sea 2016 Production) Theatre Review

Every summer, the Shakespeare By The Sea company takes two Shakespeare plays on the road, performing them in various locations all over Los Angeles and Orange counties. This year, for the company’s nineteenth season, the two plays are Cymbeline and Othello, and last night the company brought Othello to Encino, performing it at Los Encinos State Historic Park. The stage used for the play is a different configuration than what they used for Cymbeline, which means they’re carrying pieces for two different sets in their truck. The actors help construct the set for each performance.

This production begins with the first line of Act I Scene iii, “There is no composition in these news/That gives them credit.” It then adds a brief (and silent) wedding scene between Othello and Desdemona before going back to Scene i. Othello (Phillip C. Curry) is significantly older than Desdemona (Melissa Booey) in this production. Like a few decades older. So there is the interesting (and unspoken) dynamic that she is perhaps seeking a new father figure, replacing her father, which could give her actual father, Brabantio, more cause to be disturbed and upset by this marriage. Of course, Chris Nelson, who plays Brabantio, seems too young for the role, so that possible direction for exploration into the relationship is partially lost.

Curry has a strong voice, full of pride, and you get the sense that it is that very characteristic, his pride, which leads to Othello’s being misguided by Iago. When Brabantio cries out, “My daughter,” and someone asks if she is dead, and he replies, “Ay, to me,” Othello, standing stage left, actually laughs. It’s an interesting touch, and it sets him apart even further. And when Iago goes to fetch Desdemona, Othello delivers his lengthy speech to the audience, only occasionally addressing the other characters on stage. In addressing us, he seems to further separate himself from those around him, as his pride makes him feel he doesn’t need their acceptance or understanding. He can be threatening too, with a violence bubbling just below the surface, as when he grabs Iago by the wrist on “Be sure of it!

It is Iago, however, who dominates the play. Patrick Vest is excellent as Iago. His costume is dominated by blacks and reds, which might be obvious for a villain, but which works. His relationship to, and manipulation of Roderigo is established early and clearly. Roderigo (Dorian Tayler) is a pitiable character, but you grow to have some sympathy for him, partly because of Tayler’s remarkable performance. The second time Iago tells Roderigo to put money in his purse, he actually takes Roderigo’s purse, and before the third time he tells him, he looks into the purse and is clearly disappointed by the little he sees inside. It’s a nice touch, and Vest does a great job with the speech at the end of the scene. Tayler is really good in the scene where he determines to get his jewels back from Desdemona.

In Act II Scene i, Cassio kisses Emilia on each cheek and then briefly on the lips, giving fuel to Iago’s own jealousy and suspicions. And interestingly, when Iago speaks of Cassio touching Desdemona’s hand, everyone else on stage slows their motions. It’s a strong effect, and what is interesting is that it puts us more in Iago’s state of mind, in a way aligning us with the villain, almost making us like him. The effect is used again when Iago speaks to Roderigo. The two take center stage while the others move to the sides of the stage and slow their motions. Later, Iago’s stabbing of Roderigo is done in slow motion.

Bryson Allman does a good job as Cassio, even playing him drunk fairly well (something that is not all that easy). Othello turns his back on Cassio on “But never more be officer of mine.” Melissa Booey is also quite good as Desdemona. She is particularly great as she speaks to Othello on Cassio’s behalf. And there are a few nice (and needed) moments of warmth between Othello and Desdemona in that scene. Also impressive is Olivia Schlueter-Corey as Emilia. The moment where she picks up the handkerchief is wonderful. Seeing it fall, she automatically picks it up to give it back to Desdemona as she follows her and Othello out, but then stops, while facing upstage. Even though she is facing away from us, we can read her thoughts through her body language, even before she turns to us to deliver her speech. It’s a really good moment. And then she is playful with Iago regarding the handkerchief, which is nice. Because otherwise it can be easy for an audience to turn on her. There are always moments when we can’t help but wonder why she doesn’t say something about the handkerchief earlier. Schlueter-Corey really shines in the scene with Desdemona at the end of the fourth act. She pauses before “But I do think it is their husbands’ faults,” which is great. And her delivery of “or say they strike us” is pointed, which again is excellent. This speech is the moment when her character really opens up, and we’re able to see the real Emilia.

Emilia is with Desdemona at the beginning of Act V Scene ii, while Desdemona sleeps, a nice touch. She then of course exits before Othello enters to deliver his famous “It is the cause” speech. Othello uses Desdemona’s pillow to suffocate her. Interestingly, when he says he took by the throat the circumcised dog, he grabs Iago by the throat. But of course the blade is for himself.

There are quite a few cuts in the play. Othello’s herald is cut, as are the musicians and clown from the beginning of Act III. The Clown is also cut from the beginning of Act III Scene iv. And there are various other cuts. The company makes good use of the space, often entering and exiting through the audience. Two microphones at the front of the stage pick up the actors’ voices, for those toward the back of the audience. And at times music plays over the speakers during a scene. Ocean sound effects are played over the speakers during the scene in which they talk about the sea battle at the beginning of Act II.

Othello was directed by Stephanie Coltrin. The production includes one twenty-minute intermission, coming at the end of Act III Scene iii. There are still a few more chances to catch this show, with performances scheduled for Seal Beach, Manhattan Beach, Laguna Niguel and San Pedro. Visit the Shakespeare By The Sea website for details.