REVIEW: Jones’ ‘Othello’ crowns Hilberry career

Reviewed by: Robert Delaney, New Monitor Detroit

Click HERE to read the review on Encore Michigan’s website.

Othello at the Hilberry Theatre - Detroit

Ednumd Alyn Jones (Othello) and Megan Dobbertin (Desdemona) in Shakespeare’s Othello at The Hilberry Theatre.
Photot: Felix Li

Edmund Alyn Jones’ portrayal of the title role in William Shakespeare’s “Othello” can be said to be the crowning achievement of his three-year stint in Wayne State University’s graduate-level Hilberry Theatre program. The Detroit native employs both his talent and training in crafting his portrayal of the tragic Moorish military leader in the employ of Venice, who through the diabolical manipulation of Iago becomes enraged by jealousy and murders his innocent wife, Desdemona.

Director Blair Anderson has drawn out the best in Jones and in the other members of this fine grad-student cast in bringing this production to Detroit audiences.

Jones’ outstanding performance is complemented by top-notch performances by Alec Barbour as the sociopathic Iago and Megan Dobbertin as the sweet and guiltless Desdemona.

Barbour makes Iago’s villainy all the more insidious by its fresh-faced frankness (I’m reminded of Jackie Mason’s line, that “At least when (President) Nixon lied, he had the decency to twitch a little”). And Dobbertin gives us a Desdemona whose own goodness leaves her ill-prepared to suspect treachery in anyone else.

While key performances, these are not the only fine performances in this production. Pretty much everyone was good, though I do think David Sterritt needs to work on presenting a more mature persona.

As to the sets and costumes, however, I cannot say I think they added much. Some of the finest Shakespeare performances I’ve seen have been modern dress or in the dress of other periods, and it can be a good way of affirming the timeless aspect of the Bard’s plays – the very thing that keeps us so interested in them 400 years later.

But Leazah Behrens’ set for this production neither evoked Venice nor Cyprus; neither did it somehow in some non-representational way capture some essence of the venues where the drama was played out. There are many liberties that can be taken in presenting Shakespeare, but there must be some sense in them if they are to work.

Nevertheless, the quality of the acting makes this production a “must see” for fans of the Bard and local theater-goers in general.

SHOW DETAILS: “Othello” continues through Jan. 17, 2013 at the Hilberry Theatre, at Cass and West Hancock on the Wayne State University campus, in Midtown Detroit. For performance and ticket information, call 313-577-2972 or go to www.wsushows.com.

Reprinted with permission of the New Monitor, Nov. 1, 2012

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