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Othello starring David Oyelowo and Daniel Craig – review at New York Theatre Workshop

David Oyelowo and Daniel Craig in Othello at New York Theatre Workshop

In his intimate production of Othello, director Sam Gold lures the audience in as co-conspirators to Daniel Craig's playful Iago as we witness how he destroys David Oyelowo's famed general. To achieve this psychological and physical immediacy, Gold and designer Andrew Lieberman stage the work inside a cozy, six-sided plywood box where pants, cries, and whispers carry readily across the room. Styled as a modern military barrack there are mattresses, water bottles and Guitar Hero to bide the soldiers’ time between battles.

With Gold’s contemporary gloss, the underlying work bends but does not break. From scene-to-scene, dramatic lighting effects and concepts of physical space evolve but these choices complement the text and mostly maintain internal consistency.

Because of Lieberman’s wooden ceiling, there is no lighting grid. Lighting become an additional creative layer. The play operates with LED panels, work lights, lighting sources from props (cell phones, glowing containers, night-vision goggles), or in total darkness. Gold uses music to a lesser extent. Sometimes a guitarist/soldier provides eerie background ambiance. At another point, the whole gang is singing Hotline Bling as part of their revels.

Gold brings out a buoyancy in Craig whose Iago springs with a dangerous joy. When the audience is illuminated, it’s hard to avoid Craig’s magnetic gaze when he catches you watching him. Oyelowo provides ballast to their dynamic and it seems almost possible his grounded, confident Othello could resist Iago’s venomous taunts. Matthew Maher, as Roderigo, generates hilarity with his pregnant pauses and quizzical glances.

 

Verdict
Provocative directing and design imbues this production with experimental excitement
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