Othello by William Shakespeare Wise Fool Shakespeare Directed by Channi Ninneman

Question: What can I do about racial profiling and bias against interracial relationships?              

Answer: Go see Othello.
Q: How can I learn to avoid jealousy and prejudice?
A: Go see Othello.
Q: How can I teach my kids how to recognize a charlatan when they see one?
A: Like I said, go see Othello.

There just are not very many reasons not to go see Wise Fool Shakespeare’s production of Othello. Wise Fool Shakespeare is now in its seventh season, and this production promises a quantum leap above the already high bar the company has achieved.


Photo by Rebecca Farmer

Jamel Anderson rehearses the title role
in Wise Fool Shakespeare’s

Bringing in two professional actors for the leads (Jamel Anderson from the Twin Cities as Othello and Meredith M. Sweeney from New York City as Desdemona) is the clearest indication that artistic director Chani Ninneman intends to set a new standard for the company.

If you are inexperienced with Shakespeare, a few tips:
•Pay attention to Iago, who will bring Othello to his knees. Check your feelings about him along the way.
•The play is a tragedy, right? Count how many times you find yourself smiling, chuckling or even laughing. Ask yourself why.
•We are all parents or children, and sometimes both. Check out the parenting styles of Desdemona’s father, Brabantio, especially at the beginning.
•Pay attention to the handkerchief!

Directed by Ninneman, the cast brings this extraordinary text not just to life but to authentic life, displaying confidence and competence at every turn.

Tim Komatsu’s Iago will cause you to want to rush the stage and tackle him. The spellbinding thing about Iago is how transparent he is. Before your disbelief about the gullibility of his victims gets you into a condescending state of mind, check your own experience first. You, too, may fall under his spell for a time. Perhaps you have had a similar experience with a con man. ’Nuff said.

Andrew Kirov’s Roderigo will not earn your sympathy as he falls under Iago’s spell early on. There could not be a more effective foreshadowing of what’s to come. Kirov perfectly embodies the unenviable quality of being way too susceptible to the Svengali-type.

Jennie Ross brings a compelling coquettishness to Emilia, Iago’s wife. Her flirtatiousness camouflages a deeper insecurity about her husband’s true intentions. Emilia is practical and vulnerable, and Ross renders the character’s high wire act deftly (and without a net).

Desdemona’s father, Brabantio, a nobleman of Venice who discovers his daughter has moved out, is played convincingly by Chris Nollet, whose expressions reflect his rage and ultimate sense of loss. Any father of a daughter will be forced to ask himself, “What would I do, think, feel, or say if it was I who was losing the daughter?”

Sweeney and Anderson bring polish and poise to difficult roles. Their marriage endures stresses that Shakespeare asked of no other pairing in his entire canon (not even Romeo and Juliet). The indelible aspects of the tragedy are made more durable because Anderson and Sweeney are consistently genuine and sincere.

The actors play off one another comfortably, with frequent head-turning moments when a look, a line, a glance, or a gesture carries incredible dramatic weight. The sword fighting is convincing, the period costumes by Kris Biles are lush, and Jeff Brown’s set accommodates the action without calling attention to itself.

Othello runs October 7-16 at Lincoln Park Middle School, 3215 West Third Street in Duluth. Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets are available at WiseFoolShakespeare.com. $20, or $15 for students/seniors, or $10 for children 12 and under. All matinees are Pay What You Can.

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