Brüka’s Othello is well-done, but it leaves this reviewer apathetic
I hate it when I don’t like an art film. No matter what it is, someone will assume you’re an uneducated heathen who would be more at home at a monster truck rally. (Granted, Truckasaurus Rex is pretty damn cool, but that doesn’t make me a redneck, does it?)
The situation just gets worse when it’s a Shakespeare production. How can you not like Shakespeare and get away with it? In the worlds of literature and theater, Shakespeare is undisputedly The Man.
Thus, the dilemma: How do I explain that while Othello is considered one of Shakespeare’s greatest dramas, and Brüka Theatre is considered one of Reno’s best theater companies, I left the play feeling … not much of anything, really. I can’t put a finger on what made me feel so apathetic, but it seemed to be contagious: The audience was abnormally subdued that evening, and the seats were only about half-full.
It’s not that Brüka did a bad job—far from it. But despite the always top-notch acting, an impressive set design, imaginative costumes and excellent lighting and sound choices, I had no real emotional attachment to the characters or the storyline. And when it comes right down to it, theater is supposed to make you think and feel, not admire and critique with a detached demeanor.
I hope my experience was an aberration, because director Dave Anderson deserves praise for many elements of the production.
The set consists of realistic interlocking caves garnished with small rocks and vines, and the “rock” walls of the caves meld seamlessly into Brüka’s building. (Brüka has a particular knack for transforming the entire theater from play to play, right down to the decorations in the Sub-Brüka lounge area.)
Pairs of neon eyes fashioned by local artist Jeff Johnson accentuate the left, middle and right of the set, and they enhance a major theme of the play: false appearances. The main lighting in the play is subtle and effective, most notably a green spotlight that shines on center stage when a character is revealing the depths of his malice.
Another theme in the play is racism, and the music used to segue between scenes was a sort of tribal medley, perhaps alluding to the fact that the people in Shakespeare’s time saw Othello, a Moor, as little more than a African savage. Or perhaps it speaks more about the basic savagery of a human being—the hatred and violence that occurs every day. Regardless, this Survivor-esque music is an excellent choice in sustaining a level of intensity throughout the play.
Tom DeWester is his usual wonderful self as Iago, the villainous worm who turns Othello’s heart away from the ones he most loves. Amber Edsall shines again as Desdemona, the virtuous wife of Othello who is wrongly accused of adultery.
Stephen K. Patterson, a member of Knights of Indulgence Theatre United States, or KITUS, is frighteningly good as the title character. He certainly has the build for an imposing military general and a voice like thunder. He delivers Othello’s monologues in a rolling tone that slows and speeds, louder and softer, in the manner of a gifted storyteller.
And yet, I still left feeling unmoved, and I don’t know why. If you find me at a monster truck rally, please slap me and send me home.