Review: All-Female Othello Brings a Thrilling New Perspective to a Familiar Piece

Review: All-Female Othello Brings a Thrilling New Perspective to a Familiar Piece
Preston Max Allen

Attention NYC-ers: if you're a fan of Shakespeare, a fan of ladies being awesome, and/or a fan of damn good theater, make some time this week to visit Titan Theatre Company's all-female production of Othello. Hey, even if you're not exactly a fan of Shakespeare or this particularly frusterating piece of his, there is some seriously commendable and unique work happening here. To embrace this new, man-less vision, the pronouns and titles have all been changed to female ones, although occasionally the ladies refer to themselves as 'sir.' This world seems to truly have no men in it at all - that or they're all far from Venice/Cyprus, which is totally fine. They're welcome to stay away because these women have more than enough power to command this show with epic electricity. 

The show, adapted and directed by Lenny Banovez, features a set that's so stripped down it's practically nonexistent. However, this only helps in highlighting the exhilarating performances happening right before of the audience in this intimate black box space. In such close quarters no one can get away with phoning it in, but there's never a question of the dedication of these actresses. Leah Dutchin's title character is a force to be reckoned with as she descends into the frustrating tragedy Othello is doomed to suffer. Laura Frye's Iago often steals the show with her broad, colorfully expressive deliveries. She's living in such a world of exceptional villainy that she almost becomes one of the most enjoyable characters in the show. Abby Siegworth and Deanna Gibson as Cassio and Emilia are both appropriately subtle and sympathetic in their roles as betrayed bystanders to Iago's dastardly plots. These women take characters who might fade into the background and turn them into likable heroes worth rooting for - or getting tear-eyed over when things go south. Special shoutout to Titan Theatre Company member Emily Trask for her absolutely heartbreaking and wholly human portrayal of Othello's wife Desdemona. It's worth keeping an eye on the company's upcoming projects to see where she'll show up next.

By making the entire cast female, this production takes the lessons learned and experiences shared in the show and brings them to a new, broadened level of humanity. Nearly every moment is exciting - an experience than begs to be seen on principle and then delivers exceptionally. It's easy to wonder what the show would become if given the opportunity to have a grand set in a more elaborate space where the sky's the limit and blood effects fit into the budget, but these extra frills are forgotten when the actors connect face-to-face. Here's hoping there's more of this kind of theatrical magic in the future, it truly deserves to be seen. 

Othello will be running at the Queens Theatre in its last few performances this Wednesday - Saturday, and tickets can be purchased here

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