True love, passion, loyalty and devotion and their opposites — hatred, jealousy, deception, and betrayal — were forcefully portrayed on the stage of Playhouse Merced last weekend when a talented cast performed William Shakespeare’s famous tragedy, “Othello”, a work believed to have been written in 1603.
The intriguing and chilling production is the result of the joint effort of Playhouse Merced and Merced ShakespeareFest, and is directed by Heike Hambley.
In the play, Othello, a Moorish general in the Venetian army, is tragically misled by Iago, an ensign, to believe his wife, Desdemona, is unfaithful.
The deception is advanced through strategy and treachery until the jealous and tormented Othello is driven to commit a crime of passion.
One of the most heinous villains of Shakespeare’s many masterpieces, Iago, was played by Sean Gregory McDonnel. Hambley cast Krista Joy Serpa of Modesto in the role of Desdemona (Othello’s wife), and Adam Torrian of Modesto in the role of Othello.
How was Othello able to be deceived when his wife was in reality devoted, honest and chaste?
Explaining how words are used in the play, Hambley said, “Iago knows how to get people to listen and schemes to ‘pour this pestilence into [Othello’s] ear’; at the same time, he manages to convince people to call him ‘honest’ when he is anything but. Words are weaponized, and they become agents of abuse; they are thrown at, poured in, and enmeshed around the ears of the listeners. The racial slurs directed at Othello, the tearing down of Desdemona through sexually-charged insults, and the ultimate result of Iago’s machinations make very clear that words are indeed much more than words.”
The motivation for Iago’s vile scheme against Othello and Cassio has long been a subject of discourse. The reasons given in the play – – jealousy from being passed over by Othello for a promotion in favor of Cassio (played by Jordan Ellis) or suspicion that Othello had an affair with Iago’s wife, Emilia (played by Traci Sprague), or even to help a friend, Roderigo (played by Angel Nunez) get Othello out of the way so he could woo Desdemona – – do not seem to tell the whole story. Is it possible that the evil that exists within Iago and his obsession to take down Othello and Cassio is unable to be completely understood, analyzed or identified?
Playhouse Merced’s production of “Othello” runs through June 16 at the theater located at 452 W. Main Street in Merced. For further information, those interested can contact the box office at 209-725-8587.