Rain conspires: Play expires!

By Roz Friedman

Dear WMNR Listeners: There are, as you know, many productions of Shakespeare’s play presented during the summer months. Some are splendid; some adequate; some dreadful.  I was particularly interested in reviewing Shakespeare on the Sound because I had not been there since Joanna Settle became Artistic Director; I wanted to hear the score, composed by Stew and Heidi Rodewald, who were responsible for Broadway’s “Passing Strange.” And I love Othello !  It is a seemingly simple plot, full of lust and revenge, very much like TV’S Law and Order. Othello is a noble warrior and a good guy, who against her father’s wishes, marries the lovely Desdemona. Iago, an evil guy, sets Othello up, appealing to his most base emotions. When Othello believes his wife is cheating on him, he kills her. James Earl Jones and Chris Plummer were “fab” in those parts at the American Shakespeare Theatre many years ago.            

This past Tuesday, June 22, it was cloudy and rainy, yet I and my two friends decided to drive the 40 minutes to Rowayton, hoping for better weather. We were greeted warmly by Managing Director, Emily Bryan, who had saved three chairs covered in plastic for us. On hills and vales were throngs of families with children eating sumptuous picnic food.

The show began on a rustic set (Andrew Lieberman) made up of a high wood wall, a long bridge and a large earthy platform that seemed to provide a challenge for the cast who kept sinking into it.  During Iago’s first speech, we were not sure if the loud sound of blowing horns was part of the score or from a boat next to the shore. In any case, it was difficult to hear Iago and also to see him, because he was wearing a cap with a large peak that obscured his face. The sound system ( Obadiah Eaves) broke down almost immediately causing Triney Sandaoval, who plays the aggravated Venetian Senator, Brabantio, father to Desdemona, to throw off his mike, and gamely give his speech.  The poor actor had to wear a white tee shirt and pants with a bathrobe over it. At first we thought he had forgotten his costume, but no!  Even though Tilly Grimes is listed as Costume Designer, the play is done in bland modern dress, which provides no charm or character delineation.  However, although Victor Williams is not dressed as he should be as a general, he is in both stature and voice an imposing Othello. Stephanie Fieger’s clearly spoken contralto voice is a pleasure, and we wish we could have seen more of her.           
Unfortunately, the rains came and the play was delayed for 15 minutes. The rain stopped for a while, and we got to see Cassio, a part Brian Tyree Henry depicts with strength, and Roderigo (Nat McIntyre) fight and sing. Finally, the lightning, thunder and storm forced the play to close down.  Some may say it is unfair to judge a production on such a short stay. I would have to say what I saw and heard were very disappointing.  This Shakespeare on the Sound production of Othello plays through June 26 and plays again from July 2-11 at Baldwin Park in Greenwich.


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