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September 09, 1994 - Image 18

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The Michigan Daily, 1994-09-09

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2 - The Michigan Daily - Friday, September 9, 1994

0

lago (Scott Wentworth) incenses Othello (Ron O'Neal) with lies, incensing him into a rage in the Stratford Festival's production of "Othello."
Stratfior-d's 'thell' its the hm

By MELISSA ROSE BERNARDO
In contrast to "Hamlet" or
"Macbeth," "Othello" is a domestic
tragedy. There are no kingdoms at stake,
no countries in strife; it is the story of
one man and how racism poisons and

Othello
Avon Theatre
July 20, 1994

eventually destroys him. Consequently,
it is a difficult show to produce, be-
cause the intimacy of the story must
always remain the focus. In a highly
commendable production, the Stratford
Festival has succeeded in conveying
"Othello"'s intimacy without losing
any of its energy or intensity.
The story focuses on Othello (Ron
O'Neal), a Moor with a prestigious
position in the military. He has just
eloped with Desdemona (Lucy Pea-
cock), a white woman, and everyone is
politely disapproving. But since Othello
is such a gifted general and educated
man, they can overlook this interracial
marriage; after all, that makes him
"more fair than black." But not every-
one believes that Othello should live
like a white man, so his assistant, Iago
(Scott Wentworth). resumably dis-

gruntled about a missed promotion,
proceeds to poison Othello's mind with
destructive lies about Desdemona.
Director and Stratford veteran Brian
Bedford has set the play in the 1920s,
giving this production some serious
advantages. The
presence of a uni- Shakespea
formed military is t
much strength- Othello the
ened, giving the flown and n
characterof Iago a
more defined po- poetry of ai
sition; fancy character,1
evening gowns
and tuxedos clothe slowly strip
Othello'sacquain- leaving a s>
tances, giving the
whole circle a mess of a n
country club no longer e
snootiness. Songs
intheplay,includ- to that heij
ing one sung by language.
Lago, turn into
jazz-hot torch songs.
Because of this updating, missing
is the ethnic aura which usually sur-
rounds Othello. When he is draped in
African-printed robes, laden with
knives and primitive weapons, Othello
appears more threatening to his col-
leagues and more exotically attractive
to Desdemona. But we can forgive this
otherwise laudable production this ar-
guable flaw, since strong performances

re has given
most high-
metaphoric
my
which lago
ps away,
puttering
man who can
ven aspire
ght of

give this "Othello" such drive.
Ron O'Neal endows Othello with
all the requisite eloquence and pres-
ence, and ably makes the transition
from man to shell. What Othello loses
in the end is his language; Shakespeare

has given Othello
the most high-
flown and meta-
phoric poetry of
any character,
which Iago
slowly strips
away, leaving a
sputtering mess
of a man who can
no longereven as-
pire to that height
of language.
O'Neal needn't
worry about
"Superfly" any
longer.
Resplendent

All of this is set on another Ming
Cho Lee masterpiece. Lee's trademarks
are very appropriate here: a row of
walls operated by a fly system, each
wall dividing the stage into a different
depth; backgrounds extending far above
the audience's view, providing won-
derfully elegant lines. The color scheme
- you guessed it - black and white,
down to every last bit of furniture.
Brian Bedford does well behind the
scenes, and fuels this production with
the same subtle intensity which charges
his performances. His one slip is in the
last scene, but after all, two murders
and a suicide are hard to manage.
A parental guidance warning should
probably accompany this production.
Most kids have never witnessed a stran-
gling, and it will no doubt elicit scat-
.tered giggles, as it did at this matinee.
Butawkward laughteraside, most view-
ers will be shocked by the contempo-
rary resonance of "Othello." Thanks to
this production, we now see that
Shakespearean tragedy extends farpast
kingdoms and countries; it extends into
our homes and into our hearts, and that
can be a scary place to be.
OTHELLO runs in repertory through
October 15 at the Avon Theatre in
Stratford, Ontario. For tickets or
information about this or any other
production, call the Festival'box
office at (51O9 27_3m

0

in white and ivory gowns, Lucy
Peacock's Desdemona matches
O'Neal, with as much intelligence and
grace as beauty.
But the most finely-crafted perfor-
mance in this production is Scott
Wentworth's as Iago. Wentworth's in-
tensity - whether it be in a glib smirk
or a standing-at-attention pose - is
ever-present, and he rarely misses a
beat in Iago's movements.

IW"

Reg E. Gaines
Please Don't Take My Air
Jordans
PolyGram Records
"Please Don't Take My Air
Jordans" is without a doubt one of the
most interesting CDs of the year, and
Gaines is no less interesting an artist.
Many adjectives describe this man-
rapper, poet, teacher, philosopher.

The "songs" on this 17-cut album
are parables and thoughts he wishes to
share with everyone, especially his
Black people, told while some interest-
ing background beats, which strongly
correlate with the mood of each mo-
ment, plays.
Dealing with issues as diverse as
rape, child abuse, racial tensions,
Michael Jackson, Blacks who kill for
clothes, alcohol, and drugs - issues

many people have become desensi-
tized to - and speaks about them in a
way so realistic he leaves an impres-
sion impossible to shake.
Reg E. Gaines will make you cry.
An article in Spice! Magazine best
sums up Gaines and his art. "You'd
think he'd be thinking about some-
thing more important, but he don't. So
when you listen to [him], you do."
- Eugene Bowen

Da Brat
Funkdafied
So So Def Records
Jermaine Dupri, who has the un-
canny ability of turning wannabe imi-
tators into stars, has introduced Da
Brat's debut CD. I doubt his magic
powers will work this time.
Da Brat is so un-original, she stands
out among her fellow rappers, most of
whom are wannabes, too. This woman
has taken every element of Snoop
Doggy Dogg and incorporateed them
into her music. If "Funkdafied" wasn't
so pathetic, I'd almost believe Snoop
raised his voice an octave and rapped

every cut himself.
I ain't saying the CD is all bad (just
mostly). The lyrics are alright, and the
beats, some of which sound like they
were sampled from Dre's "The
Chronic" (Jermaine, watch out for law-
suits.), are solid. However, Da Brat's
rapping skillz aren't all that.
Female rappers, with the exception
of a few, have for a long time been
characterized as a buch of un-original,
non-experimenters who ride on the
coattails of male rappers' successes.
Da Brat is the kind of female rapper
that validates such stereotypes.
One of the songs on this nine-cut
CD is "Da Shit Ya Can't Fuc Wit." The

UAC's SOUNDSTAGE welcomes
M 11~

second word of this title describes
"Funkdafied" best.
- Eugene Bowen
Cows
Orphan's Tragedy
Amphetamine Reptile Records
This is pretty much the best album
to have come out yet this year. The
Cows have progressed yet again in
their purveyance of high energy
drunken modern rock which is infi-
nitely more palatable than most of the
weak poppy poop you will find.
"Orphan's Tragedy" opens with the
blistering "Cow Island," seen previ-
ously on a tour seven-inch available
only through AmRep mail-order with
an excellent unique B-side. The song
involves what sounds like frontman
Shannon Selberg singing into the wrong
end of his bugle and a guitar line that
makes you want to go running down
the street after some sort of pied piper
that you sense like a big tumor in your
head.
This leads into the smooth stylings
of "Pussy is a Monarchy." Slow
tempoed, this little ditty is pure delight.
Ithas the atmosphereofan evil, smokey
bar where terrible things go on in the
back room. It's hard to believe that
someone crooning "shut up, lay down
on the floor, don't move, don't say a
word" to you can sound so good.

with SBKER 'iS 9
Recording Artist T. '
MI-L
PRIME SEATS
HELD FOR UM
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FR DAY

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