“speak of me as I am … of one that loved not wisely, but too well.”
Daniel Craig’s is the highlight of the New York Theatre Workshop’s production of Othello. Director Sam Gold has transformed the space into a shabby wooden army barrack, that is reminiscent of American in the Middle East. Mattresses take up the floor space, as men and women wear fatigues, T-shirts, shorts and everyday attire. The play begins, as the men are in bed. What looks like two men in bed together cozily coupled, is an illusion as another seemingly man goes to another man’s bed, they take off their shirts and embrace. Lights go out and the first scene between Iago (Craig) and Roderigo (a lisping Matthew Maher, with a godforsaken horrible voice who plays him as if he is touched) is in total darkness. I seriously wanted to yell turn the lights on or get out my cell and turn it to flashlight. it turns out the first couple is Iago and his wife and the second Othello (David Oyelowo) and Desdemona (an interesting Rachel Brosnahan).
In other scenes, actors light themselves with all sorts of devices or fluorescent lights blind you. The lighting design by Jane Cox had me under serious eye strain.
The colorblind casting of Iago’s wife, Emilia (a wonderful Marsha Stephanie Blake) takes away from Othello’s uniqueness.
The script is set in Venice to Cyprus, yet we are stuck somewhere in the Middle East or at least it seems that way. Now Iago, is resentful of Othello, because he was passed over for a promotion by a black man who’s also a foreigner, yet nobody sees this tragic ending coming. Isn’t this called PTSD? Also in the original script Iago hates Othello for promoting a younger man named Cassio. Here if that has happened it is unclear. This whole plot line has been glossed over.
Now Iago is the smart cagey manipulator and Othello a self obsessed passionate moron. His rather quick turn from loving to wanting to destroy his love his bride, Desdemona, seems like Othello is bi-polar. Iago uses Cassio (Finn Wittrock) whose “girlfriend” Bianca (Nikki Massoud), a prostitute is now Muslim woman (ok explain that to me?). Iago ends up slitting her throat but Bianca doesn’t die in the original, so why have all the women murdered? Again the script states we are in Venice to Cyprus. Also in the original Othello, stabs Iago but not fatally, saying that he would rather have Iago live the rest of his life in pain.
Here Iago is a cunning master and in Daniel Craig’s (Bond) remarkable presence, we see the wheels turn as he slowly shows a complete profile of a psychopath. We believe he can kill even before he does so. He is a work of art and he can dance as shown in a weird moment outside the play when Drake’s “Hotline Bling” is sung and danced to. Craig has moves and a menacing beauty.
David Oyelowo’s (Selma) is fierce and passionate with a warrior temperament, but tormented in pain and seizures thinking Desdemona has him cuckold.
It seems since Ivo Van Hove, it is ok to take away from what a playwright writes, his intent and or his meaning, if he is dead and can not fight back. Funny with Katori Hall, or Lloyd Suh’s not wanting their pieces messed with that is a different story because it is politically challenged and they are alive. I just find this so wrong and I stand up for the playwright.
Maybe the 1982 version is still so strongly in my head, which was perfection.
Due to the overwhelmingly great reviews and the testosterone of Daniel Craig this show is sold out, however New York Theatre Workshop has instituted a cancellation line for all performances, beginning two hours prior to curtain. Cancellation tickets are full price ($125), subject to availability, and will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis. Please be advised that the cancellation line is outside the theatre, so please dress accordingly.
Othello: New York Theatre Workshop, 79 E. Fourth St.