The Monroe County Civic Theatre’s summer Shakespeare finale in Third Street Park is a memorable production. It’s The Tragedy of Othello but with almost the first words and the final strangely triumphant laugh, Nicole Bruce makes such a mark as Iago that it’s really more a study of the villain than the hero. Iago is a terrible dark figure one of the blackest in all of literature, but in Bruce’s hands I just couldn’t hate him. She brought such a positive delight in villainy, an élan of evil.
In addition to Bruce, a number of the male roles were taken by women. The production does begin with a seventies style peace rally and uses music from the period. But, local theatre veterans are pretty used to women playing men even without the excuse of the changes in opportunities for them since the Elizabethan period. Ana Delong as Lieutenant Cassio along with Yvonne Avery, Anna Bianco and Katelyn Vesely as other male characters put on the pants for the show.
The Civic Theatre’s Othello did enjoy solid performances from women as women with Sarah Ruggles as a sympathetic Desdemona, Stephanie Courter as her mother, and Emily Cohen as Lieutenant Cassio’s slightly slutty lover. Markie Gray, Iago’s partner, was especially outstanding as she explained her role in the treacherous scheme and defended Desdemona’s innocence.
Steven Heise was quite effective as the Duke and even more so as the shows clown. Eric Van Gucht was as Iago’s dupe Rodrigo. Tyler Hill filled the stage nicely as the central authority Lodovico who wraps up the play. Andy Alphonse was a dignified and restrained as the Moor, but somehow lacked the heft that might have better balanced the production.
The director, Nate Stanger, did a nice job using both the raised stage and the front area to keep the action flowing. It’s easy to fall into a mechanical pattern with the entrances and exits for Shakespeare’s scenes and this didn’t happen here. By the way the director couldn’t be at the park for the opening weekend because he was moving into the dorm for his freshman year at the University of Minnesota. His assistant director and mother Sheila Butler was managing. Nate gets to come home to Bloomington to enjoy the show’s final weekend.
The Monroe County Civic Theatre’s production of Othello in Third Street Park has its final performances this Friday and Saturday the 18th and 19th. Blankets, lawn chairs and sweaters or jackets are recommended as the temperature drops in the evenings damp.
At the theatre for you, I’m George Walker.
Othello by William ShakespeareO
Monroe County Civic Theatre
September 11/ 12 and 18/19, 2009
Third Street Park