Chicago Shakespeare’s Othello makes a strong case for Iago as Shakespeare’s greatest character. Not just Shakespeare’s greatest villain, mind you (give Iago 10:1 odds in that non-contest), but the overall bracket winner in the tournament of Shakespeare’s greatest creations.*
While Hamlet, Brutus, and Lear expound on their inner turmoils at every turn in the road, Iago is a giant oak unmoved by morals or loyalty or the law. From the opening scene, Iago follows Othello only “to serve my turn upon him.” His guiding question, “And what’s he then that says I play a villain[?],” is not a justification to himself but a direct challenge to his audience: judge me if you want, but I was wronged long before any of this started.
Thank you to director Jim Corti and his team at the Paramount Theater for acknowledging that the West Side Story of 1957 needed some retooling.
To give due credit, Jerome Robbins was a Broadway pioneer that brought grit to the stage with his concept for West Side Story. It had ethnic slurs; it had teens talking back to adults; it questioned the validity of the American dream. But… within the grit of West Side Story, Robbins mixed in a generous supply of gold flakes. Due to choreography that Robbins created for Broadway and immortalized in the 1961 movie, gang members always looked like they would be more at home in ballet class than in an actual fight.
Imagine buying a ticket to a musical titled Nán Wáwá. The show is set in New York during the 1930’s and begins with three gangsters singing a catchy song about gambling on horse races. Absolutely nothing about this musical is Chinese—so why isn’t the show’s title Guys and Dolls?
This scenario pertains to just one of the confusing aspects of Mai Dang Lao, a world premier produced by the Sideshow Theater Company at Victory Gardens’ upstairs theater. Mai Dang Lao is the name used for McDonald’s restaurants in China, yet any connections between this stage play and China exist solely in the playwright’s bio (David Jacobi has performed in theater companies in both America and China).
After watching Johnny “Rooster” Byron and his drug-addicted disciples for three hours in Jerusalem, I cannot blame the residents of Wiltshire, England, for wanting him out of his trailer in the woods. Nor am I surprised that Rooster Byron was such a hit for London Theatergoers, who saw in this anti-hero the rough-around-the-edges Brittonian that is as synonymous to the British identity as Robin Hood and King Arthur.