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Reviews

Othello

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Presented by the Neolight Theatre Company and Penguin Productions at the Present Company Theatorium, 198 Stanton St., NYC, July 8-31.

It is truly wondrous that more and more productions of Shakespearean plays are cropping up these days. But that does not mean that one of his greatest works, "Othello," should be twisted and sexualized into something misshapen and exploitive.

The Neolight Theatre Company's "Othello," adapted and directed by Andrew Cucci, incorporates full and partial nudity in several ways. Initially, it appears tasteful and appropriate, but later it becomes excessive, and hardly a necessary device to convey Desdemona's innocence and vulnerability.

Add to that the uneven, less-than-evil portrayal of Iago by Stewart Walker, and Norman Douglas Cooley's deeply wounded Othello is all that's left to capture the play's heart and soul. Although he needs more training in the delivery of the Elizabethan diction, he does a capable job, giving a performance full of agonized emotion and passionate love for his doomed wife.

It would help if Jason Vail's Cassio had more to do, as he clearly delivers the meaning and rhythm of the dialogue, and Allison Tartalia stands out as Emilia. Kristen Napiorkowski is initially ineffectual as Desdemona, but she eventually adds a lower register to her faint, high-pitched voice that improves clarity and understanding.

Greg Schmalbach plays up the humor in Roderigo. In multiple smaller roles, Marissa Lichwick is commanding as The Doge (otherwise known as the Duke) of Venice and Lodovico. John C. Faye is perfect as Barbantio, Lindsey Lee makes good use of her short playing time as the spirited Bianca, and Kevin Cannon, Michael Doyle, and Sarah Adams complete the cast.

Cucci depends too heavily on a strong Iago. His adaptation allows Iago's scenes to take prominence in the first act, but his direction fails to draw out Iago's villainy to the heightened dramatic weight necessary to justify such changes.

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