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          Eldred Theater re-imagines Othello for intense production

          All of CWRU's a stage: weekend theater productions

          Kelly McCready

          Issue date: 4/9/10 Section: Focus
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          Newlyweds Othello (Antuane Rogers) and Desdemona (Caroline Santa) enjoy their love while the backstabbing Iago (Jim Tomola) looms behind.
          Newlyweds Othello (Antuane Rogers) and Desdemona (Caroline Santa) enjoy their love while the backstabbing Iago (Jim Tomola) looms behind.
          [Click to enlarge]
          In the last play of its season, Eldred Theater brings Othello to life with an exhilarating production that delves into the depths of human psychology. Shakespeare was clearly a man ahead of his time, exploring racism, women's rights, jealousy, adultery, deception, love, and manipulation in this tragedy. Throw in sword fights, murder, a villain you love to hate, stellar acting and you've got a show that is captivating, invigorating, and exciting.

          Othello was originally set in the 1500s during the wars between Venice and the Ottoman Empire, but this production brings a new spark to the play in its unique concept. Picture this: Othello set in British colonial South Africa during the Boer Wars. Director Jerrold Scott explained, "It works because we can see how little race relations have changed from 1603 to nearly 300 years later, when the Boer Wars occurred."

          Shakespeare also tackles other relevant issues like women's rights. In one scene in particular, the feisty Emilia attempts to convince Desdemona that men must respect women as equals. The purposeful and effective adaptation of this production not only illuminates the issues of racism and women's rights in a new way, but speaks to how Shakespeare transcends time and place.

          The play tells the story of an African Moor, Othello (Antuane Rogers), and his relationship with a European woman, Desdemona (Caroline Santa). In addition to the immediate social challenges, Othello also falls victim to the manipulation of the diabolical and brilliant Iago (Jim Tomola). A host of other characters also inadvertently contribute to demise of Othello.

          Usually, the last production of Eldred's season is the largest, and Othello is no different. Designer Michael Roesch has created a large raked set similar to those of Elizabethan theaters. Stage manager Kelly Opalko said, "The rake has proven to be a challenge, but everyone have done a great job of adapting to this historically-accurate piece. Beside the language, this was probably the biggest challenge."
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