The Lenoir-Rhyne University Playmakers’ recent production of William Shakespeare’s Othello demonstrates the text, while also giving insight as to what the characters are truly depicted as. This play took the form of a tragedy in that Othello (Tylan James) is blindsided and fooled by his so-called friend Iago (Zachary Koch) to ruin the marriage of the newlyweds, simply because he (Iago) was not named lieutenant. The play follows Othello in text very well, only omitting a few minor areas and leaving the discrete ideas in place. The Playmakers use stage setting, music and lighting, and characterization as a main focus to convey the suspense created by Iago, leaving the audience in awe.
The stage setting of Othello gives insight as to how Cyprus is pictured in the text and helps support what the area looks like. The stage is very dark with lighting which focuses on the actors. There is fencing, with stairs and dark sheets, to set the scenery of the play as well. Suspense is the main aspect of the play and sets the mood, leaving one wondering what will happen next. After analyzing the stage set, it is obvious that it helps accompany the mood of the play and portrays the suspense that will be revealed by Iago later. During the opening scene of the Playmakers’ production, the willow tree song is performed by Barbary (Ariona Smith) and young Desdemona (Sophia Heller-Lee), giving an eerie sense of suspense as to what might happen next. This also helps to set the mood of the play.
Music and lighting are two key components which helped to support the transition of scenes during the play. As a scene changes, a genre of music would play, particularly rock/heavy metal. After a few scene transitions, it almost seems as if the music playing between them helps to support the upcoming scene. For example, a rock song was played before a heated scene regarding Iago transpired. The scene which was subsequent to it was Iago’s plan to split Othello and Desdemona (Abbey Hayes), fitting the genre of music perfectly. This was also the case with lighting. Iago has one crucial monologue, a dramatic speech spoken to the audience, as he speaks of the thoughts he has in his mind to split Othello and Desdemona. As he does this, a red light focuses on him to symbolize the anger and rage he has. In the monologue, Iago’s anger is depicted as he says “[a]nd nothing can or shall content my soul [t]ill I am evened with him, wife for wife, [o]r, failing so, yet that I put the Moor [a]t least into jealousy so strong [t]hat judgement cannot cure” (2.1.320-24). There are also screen projectors present on both sides of the auditorium, showing images which complement the scene. For example, as Othello finds out the plan Iago devises to separate him from Desdemona, he realizes that he has killed his precious wife under wrong circumstances. The screens project images of Othello and Desdemona with their wedding rings in their palms. As Othello spoke, the lighting turned red, symbolizing anger. Iago’s character is prominently presented as one would portray it in the text since the music and lighting help complement the actions he takes so well.
Each actor provides a sense of the character they play, revealing their personalities very well. The attire worn by the actors helps to describe the role and personality type that they are replicating. Iago, mainly described as a “villain” in the text, shows his true colors through his actions (288). Firstly, he is dressed in all black, including his hair color and eyeliner, portraying the sense of a villain perfectly. Secondly, the actions that he takes, such as looking out into the crowd and speaking of his secret plot, while also showing a humorous attitude. There are numerous occasions that Iago speaks to the audience in a monologue, while also tapping his finger on his chin to demonstrate suspense as to what will occur next. For example, Iago speaks of his plan to separate Othello and Desdemona by saying “‘[t]is here, but yet confused/ [k]navery’s pain face is never seen till used” (2.2.333-34). These actions describe his personality perfectly in the play, exactly as they do in the text.
The text of Othello is recreated very well by all of the cast, specifically Iago, offering suspense throughout and demonstrating his personality as a villain. Suspense and the aspect of Iago being a villain play out in the conclusion as Othello discovers the plan Iago developed to win lieutenancy (288-89). Iago’s actions in the production give clarification to some points made in the text, and give insight as to how the lines should be revealed. The form of a tragedy is also followed during the play with a twist in the suspense. Othello is known as a tragedy, but Iago brings an irresistible attitude to the play, making it carry suspense as to what will happen next along the journey. The usage of stage setting, lighting and music, and characterization are highly used, complementing the aspect of suspense and Iago as a character.
Othello. By William Shakespeare. Dir. Joshua Yoder. Perf. Tylan James and Zach Koch. LR Playmakers, Lenoir-Rhyne U., Hickory, NC. 9 Nov. 2016.
Shakespeare, William. Othello. Ed. Barbara A. Mowat and Paul Werstine.Folger Shakespeare Library Edition, Simon and Schuster, 2009.
Snyder, Susan. “Othello: A Modern Perspective.” Folger Shakespeare Library: Othello by William Shakespeare, edited by Barbara A. Mowat and Paul Werstine, Simon and Schuster, 2009. pp. 287-98.
Theatre Program, Director’s Note. Othello. By William Shakespeare. Perf. Tylan James and Zach Koch. LR Playmakers, Lenoir-Rhyne U., Hickory, NC. 9 Nov. 2016.