I never really consider leaving New York City to catch a play, but the recent production of Othello at Long Island City's Secret Theater has given me new inspiration to start hitting the road.
The idea of a seeing Shakespearian play in a small theater for a ten-dollar ticket price is enough to leave most people terrified of what they may be walking into. But Wandering Bark Theater Company took on the challenge, and created a production filled with moving performances and compelling moments.
Othello was never one of my favorite Shakespearean plays, as I found the characters to be either annoyingly naive or evil, but this cast took on these parts with ease and gracefully translated them to the stage. Alan Brincks tackled the wicked nature of Iago like a champion, handling his insane amount of dialogue and narration without breaking a sweat. Wayne T. Carr was also convincing as Othello, commanding the room with his tearful soliloquies and eloquent delivery.
The ensemble brought a surprising level of control, craft, and commitment to the play. At one heated point David Muhs (Montano), and Joseph Mitchell Parks (Cassio) staged a fight scene that was quite believable and very well blocked, a feat considering the audience was less than five feet away.
The absolute standouts were the two leading ladies, Valerie Redd (Desdemona) and Abbi Hawk (Emelia). As Desdemona Redd was the role, embodying the passion, fragility, and naiveté that would be her undoing. The moments where Redd was expressing Desdemona's feelings for Othello were both strong and poignant; she embodied the movements and trouble breathing that we have when struggling with the idea of lost love.
Abbi Hawk's role of Emelia was much smaller, but she truly rocked it out. With her dialogue and presence growing as the play went on, she was one of the only actors to really translate the Shakespearian dialect into a modern one, moving and intonating her words in the clearest possible ways. By the end of the show she owned the stage, keeping all eyes on her as she took on Emelia's feelings of betrayal and disgust in her own actions.
Director Leta Tremblay made a good call by placing the men in US Army fatigues, translating the tragedy to modern times. Short films of the characters bonding as friends or lovers interject through out the play, adding an even more modern touch, as well as a reinforcement that our characters have a back-story and a life outside the bare walls we see.
Hidden behind what looks like a series of office buildings and loading areas, The Secret Theater was the ideal location for a play such as Othello. Seating circles the small stage, allowing views from all sides. The audience is placed at eye level with the actors, causing several startling moments of direct eye contact during emotional soliloquies. On a negative point the theater was absolutely freezing, so if you are intending to go be sure to bundle up and maybe grab a glass of wine to warm yourself up.
Be sure to follow these actors and the Wandering Bark Theater Company as they continues to impress big with small price tags. To check out what is next for Wandering Bark visit: http://www.wanderingbarktheatrecompany.org/