“I hate. I hate the Moor.”
So spoke Iago during UA’s February 2013 production of Othello. From there, the show picked up speed, racing through each of Iago’s machinations to destroy the title character.
“I wanted to transport the audience into the minds of Othello and Iago,” said director Seth Panitch, “so I turned to movement and music to assist us in that concept.”
Panitch, who has been directing plays since 1996, included these modern twists on Shakespeare’s classic to great effect.
During each soliloquy, Spanish guitars played a tune to match the main characters’ thoughts. To capture Othello’s rising suspicion of Desdemona, the melody raced; Iago spoke, and it became slow, more sinister.
Music also accompanied the explosive combat scenes. The swordfighters seemed to dance to slower pieces, and in some, violence erupted with no warning notes at all, a dance all the more intense for the lack of music.
Panitch used movement to convey “the truly dark places that Othello and Iago go.” His production often placed actors behind filmy curtains, to represent the role they played in the psyches of the characters who spoke from center stage.
The most poignant of these glimpses came when Iago revealed his plan to ensnare Desdemona. The phantom Desdemona left the transparent curtain to stand before him, and as Iago spoke his hands wrapped around her throat, foreshadowing the tragedy that awaited her.
Scenes like this evoked the audience’s empathy not only for the doomed heroine, but also for her husband who was deceived and undone by his own jealousy. “There’s something universal in the characters’ inability to trust who they love,” said Panitch. “Through that lack of confidence comes a sense of horror.”
Iago: Sam Hardy
Othello: Michael Luwoye
Desdemona: Abby Jones
Cassio: Michael Witherell
Soldiers: Miranda Rivas, William Rowland, Jordan DeWitt, Amber Gibson
Emilia: Natalie Riegel