By Kevin Zimmerman
An actor appearing in Titan Theatre Co.’s production of “Othello,” at the Queens Theatre through May 2 said the show’s director, Lenny Banovez, isn’t interested in the who, what, when or where of the play, but rather the why.
For this actor, appearing in her first Titan piece, Banovez cuts out the noise and clutter and gets to the heart of the matter and focuses on why these characters act as they do.
At its core, “Othello” asks a lot of questions about human nature and our perceptions of those individuals around us.
Why do people believe the worst of each other? Why would someone set out to destroy another person simply because he can? Why do so many people not question accusations bandied about but accept those statements as fact?
Anyone looking for solutions wrapped up in a tidy little package will surely be disappointed.
Messrs. Shakespeare and Banovez don’t supply us with many answers in Othello’s, Iago’s and Desdemona’s journey, but they do provide a hell of a ride.
Violent in nature, the final curtain death toll may not outpace “Hamlet,” but there are plenty of dead bodies littering the stage by the end. “Othello” is also at turns dramatic, funny and even at times absurd.
In case you skipped English class during the Shakespeare section, “Othello” is based on Cinthio’s short story “Un Capitano Moro” (“A Moorish Captain”).
Othello is a general in the Venetian army and a Moor — that is a person of the Islamic faith of mixed Arabian and North or West African descent. He secretly marries Desdemona, the daughter of Senator Brabantio, and the couple is sent to Cyprus, where Othello will lead the fight against the Turks.
Iago, Othello’s ensign, convinces the general that Desdemona has been unfaithful with Cassio, Othello’s recently promoted lieutenant.
Heartbreak, tragedy and plenty of bloodshed ensues.
In Shakespeare’s time all of the roles would have been played by men. In 21st century Queens, the entire Titan cast is comprised of women.
While this could have been cause for titillation, as characters in love still show affection to each other, it never is. The audience accepts that all the characters are women and that’s that.
And again, Banovez manages to wring solid performances out of the entire cast.
As Othello, Leah Dutchin starts out a little shaky.
On opening night, she even provided a little unintentional humor when she flubbed the line in Act 1, Scene 2, where Othello says, “Were it my cue to fight, I should have known it without a prompter.”
But likely that was a bit of nerves early on. As the evening progressed, Dutchin delivered a compelling performance with all the highs and lows of this general who struggled with the suggestion she had become a cuckold.
Emily Trask as Desdemona shows us a woman in love with Othello who then is genuinely confused as to the change in the general’s attitude toward her.
Abbey Siegworth, in her first New York City performance, brings Cassio to glorious life showing the anger, mirth and hopelessness that the lieutenant faces at different times throughout the story. But once again Laura Frye walks away with a Titan show, this time with her complex performance as the sociopath to which all future sociopaths are measured against, Iago.
Iago plays a diabolic game with each of the other characters. She knows where and when to strike and takes much pleasure in doing just that.
As Iago, Frye must switch between disingenuous caring, open hostility and light-hearted camaraderie at a moment’s notice. And she makes it all look so easy.
If you Go
When: Through May 2
Where: Queens Theatre, 14 United Nations Ave. South, Flushing Meadows Corona Park
Contact: (718) 760-0064
Reach News Editor Kevin Zimmerman by e-mail at kzimm