by Will Demers

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday February 20, 2018

Jude Sandy and Stephen Thorne in "Othello" at Trinity Rep. Photo: Mark Turek
Jude Sandy and Stephen Thorne in "Othello" at Trinity Rep. Photo: Mark Turek  

The strength of love is challenged by jealousy and plans to dissolve a marriage. When a soldier is passed over for promotion he sets in motion some truly epic and underhanded dealings. A secret marriage, a plot to destroy a man, no, two men and all will end rather messily, set in motion by each of these events.

"Othello" arguably one of Shakespeare's greatest tragedies, comes to the Trinity stage with a bang. The company's latest offering sinks its collective teeth into the project, guided by director and former Brown/Trinity student Whitney White. Setting the play in modern military times, complete with today's weapons and garb, it just may be the way to introduce the Bard to a new generation, and breathe new life to an oft-produced play.

Iago (Stephen Thorne) is an ensign passed over by his commanding officer Othello (Jude Sandy) for promotion. Instead, a much younger man Cassio (Charlie Thurston) gets to climb up in rank. As Othello has just secretly married Desdemona (Rebecca Gibel), the daughter of a Senator (Brian McEleney) who prepares to disown her, Iago plots to ruin their marriage. Roderigo (Mauro Hantman) wanted Desdemona's hand and through Iago wills the death of Othello.

This is all just the tip of the iceberg to the viewer, and this production holds attention by its deft handling of each character in turn. A barebones set design by Daniel Soule echoes the drabness of military quarters. The costumes and lighting reflect a pale and stark existence, bringing a sense of discord to the proceedings, it works efficiently to this effect. The performances are as intense as the settings are bare. Thorne's Iago launches his campaign against Othello with vigor, he is frightfully compelling, yet manages to inject some humor into the role.

The ladies each bring a sense of power to their roles, with different results. Gibel's Desdemona is very much the tragic wife doomed by Iago's pot stirring, she is riveting. Bianca (Brown/Trinity student L'Oreal Lampley) plays her with equal parts of sweetness and fire, an excellent choice. And Angela Brazil's Emilia has a wicked gleam in her eye as she unwittingly plants the seeds of her lady Desdemona's destruction. The supporting cast, including Fred Sullivan Jr., Ryan Joseph Broussard and Brendan Hickey lend their strong support as soldiers in the Venetian army.

The show definitely belongs to Sandy's performance as Othello. Mixing a loving husband with a descent into despair and perceived deception isn't an easy task. Thurston also injects some of that intensity into Cassio, notably when he is provoked into fighting his comrades during a drunken celebration. The three women share a moment of sweet song, a haunting melody of allegiance to each other, one of the best moments of the piece. The fight scenes are nothing to be sniffed at, staged by Thurston and Zdenko Martin, showing us the dark side of Shakespeare's humanity. In all, "Othello" works to shake up the tragedy with a fresh face, and it makes for a riveting show.

"Othello" is running through March 18th at Trinity Repertory Company, 201 Washington Street, Providence, RI 02903. For information or tickets, call 401-351-4242 or visit www.trinityrep.com.