Behind the scenes at Orlando Shakespeare Theater

“Outstanding…Electric…Commanding…” – Terry Teachout, The Wall Street Journal

Pick up today’s Wall Street Journal and check out Terry Teachout’s fabulous “Othello” review.

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Traditional stagings of Shakespeare’s plays are hard to come by these days, and it’s refreshing to be reminded, as Orlando Shakespeare is currently doing in its outstanding version of “Othello,” that the greatest of all English-speaking playwrights can scrape along quite nicely without hip costumes or self-consciously clever directorial touches. Brian Vaughn’s production takes place in 16th-century Venice and Cyprus, not Greenwich Village or Nazi Germany, and unfolds on a flexible Elizabethan-style unit set designed by Bert Scott that hurls you from scene to scene with electric swiftness. Nothing is allowed to divert your attention from Shakespeare’s harsh portrayal of jealousy run rampant, and the cast tells the tale briskly and forcefully.

Mr. Vaughn’s staging is Iago-centric, and Martin Yurek is more than equal to the challenge of bringing Shakespeare’s vengeful monster to horrific life. His demeanor is modern but not anachronistically so, and he steers clear of mustache-twirling melodrama, coolly confiding his malign purpose to the audience. Esau Pritchett brings a hugely commanding physical presence to the title role, and Lindsey Kyler (who is much shorter than Mr. Pritchett, a telling touch) is delicate but not insipid as Desdemona. Britt Sandusky, the sound designer, has supplied a score that is strongly cinematic in its effect, while Eric T. Haugen has lighted the stage in such a way as to emphasize its darkness and depth. If you’ve never seen “Othello,” this would be the ideal way to make its acquaintance.

—Mr. Teachout, the Journal’s drama critic, blogs about theater and the other arts at www.terryteachout.com. Write to him at tteachout@wsj.com.

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