|The Cast of Othello|
When Director Bill Rauch decided to set the 2018 Oregon Shakespeare Festival production of Othelloin our time with military personnel sent to Cyprus wearing camouflage that bear “US Navy” on their uniforms, he ensured the relevance of this tragic tale to headlines we are reading even today. That the most reviled of all Shakespeare’s villains, Iago, says point-blankly and unashamedly, “I hate the Moor” — and he does so as a Iago who is a clean-cut, white, immediately likeable military ensign – cannot help but draw comparisons to the pictures and videos we see of everyday Americans (and even top leaders) showing their hate of those of color not born in this country. Apart from the themes of jealousy and misjudgment that center on Othello himself, OSF’s and Bill Rauch’s 2018 Othello is a stark, unsettling reflection of the doubts and mistrusts that can quickly multiply when a respected source begins to spread rumors and outright lies about “the other” among us – about that person or people who is different in color, nationality, and/or religion from those who look like me.
|Alejandra Escalante & Chris Butler|
The military hero, Othello — who in this case has immigrated from somewhere in Africa to rise to hero-status in the U.S. military – is charming in accent and manner, is well-spoken, and is full of amiable confidence when we first meet him. Chris Butler provides few, if any, early hints of the emotional, mental, and psychological breakdown that is soon to occur. With his new bride, Desdemona, he is passionately and unashamedly demonstrative of his love for her. With his comrades, he is jovial and familiar. His eventual metamorphosis into a full-fledge monster is all the more horrific because Chris Butler is able at first to make us believe that maybe this particular Othello will not be taken in by Iago’s outlandish insinuations and will in fact continue in this staging to love his beautiful, accomplished bride.
|Derek Garza & Rainbow Dickerson|
Helping round out this fine cast is Richard Elmore as a business-like Duke and as a tottering, hilarious handyman named Hektor. Sheila Tousey is Gratiana, a dignified, straight-laced, but caring aunt of Desdemona; Richard Howard, Desdemona’s fiery (and racist) father, Brabantio; and Barzin Akhavan, a Kurish immigrant named Monano who is now the statesmen-like governor of Cyprus (and whose Muslim faith and face further makes this production particularly timely and relevant). Finally, Rainbow Dickerson is Bianca, the motor-cycle-riding, brazen, and openly sexy bedtime diversion of Cassio, who becomes yet another instrument in Iago’s evil plan to undo Othello via Cassio.