A well-paced, stylish production that focuses attention on the latitude of Shakespeare’s language while adding artfully to the play’s meaning. Marti Maraden’s “Othello” focuses on the political of the personal, with subtle messages about imperialism, colonization and their microcosms in the domestic sphere. The brilliant set design and costumes tastefully reflect themes of colonialism, from white suits to North African lamps, while simultaneously bringing to mind a kind of surrealist, distilled Magritte painting. Iago, who steals the show, becomes a rabid imperialist who brings down Othello, the failed colonizer, with a particularly inspired Cassio and a perfectly pathetic Rodrigo. “Better to be much abused than to know it a little,” Othello declares, and indeed, the dread that accompanies the destruction of the dark man at the hands of white-suited men around him is remarkable. Somehow the actors also manage at moments to be gently ironic, tipping their hats to the play’s loaded history. The only actor who occasionally misses the mark is Othello himself, whose vocal and physical excesses make his character less interesting than it might have otherwise been. Overall an artistic, controlled and thoughtful production. (Monica Westin)
At the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, 800 E. Grand, (312)595-5600. This production is now closed.