Othello - Beware, my lord, of your friends
Presenting the first of three offerings in it's 21st annual Shakespeare in the Parks series, the Hudson Shakespeare Company returns with "Othello", Shakespeare's study of proud man's descent into jealous rage on Tuesdays, July 19 & 26 at 7:30p.m at Monument Park, 1588 Palisade Avenue, Fort Lee and Wednesdays, June 20 and 27 7:30pm at Staib Park, 459 Davis Avenue.. Setting the production in the mid 1800's Italy and Cyprus, the company presents the portrait of a perfect couple in the celebrated warrior general (Michael Hagins) and Desdemona (Melissa Meli), daughter of a powerful Venetian senator (Tom Cox) whose love is destroyed by a jealous and sociopathic officer Iago (Jon Ciccarelli)
Othello the Moor, a seasoned and traveled general employed by the Venetian state against the Ottoman empire, has secretly married Desdemona, a daughter of the senator Brabantio. Iago, an ensign nursing resentment against Othello, enlists the help of Rodorigo (Mark Levy), a disappointed suitor of Desdemona. They wake Brabantio in the middle of the night with the news of his daughter's elopement. Brabantio takes the case to the senate where, learning that she has married Othello of her own accord, he disowns his daughter. Othello is immediately ordered to the Venetian colony of Cyprus to repel a threatened Ottoman invasion. Desdemona sails with her husband, taking with them her companion Emilia, who is also Iago's wife, and Othello's lieutenant Michael Cassio (Reynaldo Piniella), newly promoted over Iago's head.
Once in Cyprus, Iago puts his plan to plant suspicion in Othello's mind that Desdemona has been unfaithful to him with Cassio. He engineers a drunken brawl for which Cassio is blamed and dismissed by Othello. Desdemona intercedes on Cassio's behalf but her constant pleas to Othello for his reinstatement only serve to convince Othello that Cassio is her lover. Iago acquires a treasured handkerchief that belonged to Desdemona and uses it as 'proof of the affair. Increasingly maddened by jealousy, Othello orders Iago to kill Cassio and strangles Desdemona himself. Emilia discloses her husband's plot and Othello, tormented by grief and remorse, kills himself. Iago, after murdering his own wife, is left to the justice of the Venetian state.
Written in 1603 in response to a popular big budget court production called "The Masque of Blackness", Shakespeare took a drastic turn in presenting a black protagonist as a worthy hero and not as a mustache twirling villain that many of his contemporaries had done. Although, the story was based on a book called "The Hecatommithi" written by Italian author, Cinthio, Shakespeare expanded a basic love triangle story with fleshing out the relationship of Othello and Desdemona on real-life interracial married couples that were present in his London. Contemporary records indicate scores of North African and sub-Saharan African emigrants that had legally married local London women. Like Othello, these people, however, hard working, always had something to prove themselves in a society ever suspicious of them. In Iago, Shakespeare almost foresees modern psychiatric insight into sociopathic people who perform horrific crimes simply for the sheer enjoyment of it. After a lifetime spent fighting many enemies at the end of a sword, Othello, is undone by a friend.
Hudson Shakespeare is its 21st season of traveling Shakespeare. They will be returning with a 1940's Looney Tunes version of "Comedy of Errors" on Tuesdays, July 17 & 24 at 7:30p.m at Monument Park, 1588 Palisade Avenue, Fort Lee and Wednesdays, July 18 and 25 7:30pm at Staib Park, 459 Davis Avenue. Also their final play, the lost Shakespeare play "Cardenio" in a Zorro meet Shakespeare setting will be performed on Tuesdays, August 7 & 14 at 7:30p.m at Monument Park, 1588 Palisade Avenue, Fort Lee and Wednesdays, August 8 and 15 7:30pm at Staib Park, 459 Davis Avenue. Patrons are encouraged to bring a lawn chair or blanket and all performances are free. For more information, please call 973 449 7443 or visit hudsonshakespeare.homestead.com
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