Salamander’s Othello (better late than never..?)

I’ve said before on these silly pages, that I really don’t care for writing reviews of shows once they’ve closed because, well, it’s kind of useless then, now isn’t it?  And i feel useless enough in my everyday goings-on, thanks very kindly.  But…still.  I really haven’t been bloggin’ very much of late, and I DID just recently see a dandy show that I’d been meaning to for ages now, and I’d feel plum awful if I didn’t say a few words about it.  Heck, maybe it’ll bring someone some joy, yes?  There’s a nice thought.  And since these folks brought ME some much needed joy on said night, it’s the least I can do to try.

The play in question has actually been running pretty much non-stop since the Ottawa Fringe Festival back in mid-June, in venues varying from an outdoor amphitheatre, various city parks, the Rideau street underpass, and finally, the NAC 4th stage (which is where I caught it on its last day).  That play is OTHELLO, from the hyperactive theatre kids at Salamander Shakespeare.  I’d shamefully put off seeing their latest production for ages, and almost made the mistake of skipping it entirely (it turns out I actually have to save up some money for a trip I’m taking in a few weeks…who knew travelling cost?), but happily talked myself into heading out.

A chance meeting outside with some awesome theatre-folk seemed like a good omen for the evening and we headed on in to grab seats and watch some good old fashioned Shakespeare.  Directed by Eleanor Crowder, this production had a bit of a rolling lead system going on, with the role of Othello changing between Zach Raynor and Pruf Rock, and Grace Gordon and Katie Ryerson taking turns as Desdemona.  For closing night, Pruf and Katie played the doomed couple.  I was pleased to get Pruf Rock, as I was intrigued with the choice of a slam poet like himself as the lead in one of the bard’s most infamous tragedies.  Happy to say it was a wise choice, as PR is a masterful orator who easily commands attention with his words.  Okay, his acting chops are a touch shaky at times, but he brings such an interesting and exciting vibe to the production it’s hardly a concern.  Now I gotta catch me some of his slammin’!

Grace Gordon does wonderfully as Desdemona, very believably devastated by the sudden turn in her beloved husband’s demeanor.  And the reason for that turn, of course, is what may be Shakespeare’s greatest villain of all: Iago.  A practiced liar and master manipulator who destroys lives just for the sake of being an utter asshole, and who has his victims thanking him for his treachery right up until the final twisting of the blade, Iago is a dream role for ANY actor.  Here it is played by Guy Buller, who just eats it up.   With a hateful scowl lurking just aside of every shit-eating grin, Guy nails the performance, seething with palpable hate for pretty much everyone he encounters.  It’s a schadenfreudian delight to watch.

Other performances are just as engaging…Tim Oberholzer has some great comedic moments as fallen hero Cassio, likewise Katie Ryerson stealing scenes as loud and lusty Bianca.  Anna Lindgren shines as Iago’s put-upon wife Aemilia, and Nick Surges gives great laughs as dull-witted Roderigo, another of Iago’s would-be patsies.  It’s a great ensemble, as is to be expected of Salamander.  Lovely costumes, performances, and even the swordfights are pretty damn cool.  They deliver the goods.

I really am sorry I didn’t see this early enough in the run to be of some use…maybe next year, when they come back with AS YOU LIKE IT for their ’12 season, I’ll get off my butt and catch it in the open air like I oughtta.  Not that I mind the 4th stage any…the bar IS a nice touch.

Awright, NOW I’m starting to remember why I have this blog…good news.  I’ll be back hopefully sooner than later with some blather on upcoming seasons, and the best resurrection story of the year.  Until then, keep on filling the cheap seats, Ottawa.  Peace, love and soul,

The Visitor (and Winston)

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