Promising debut


By William Shakespeare
Directed by Rob Eggers
Pale Horse Productions
Kraine Theatre
85 E. 4th St. (212/946-5578)
Non-union production (closes March 26)
Review by Charles Battersby

Before anything else can be said about Pale Horse Productions' Othello, the costuming gets praise. Director/Iago Rob Eggers chose the 17th century as the show's time period, so Othello's crewmen were all dressed in lavish musketeer finery. This was more than a few plumed hats and tunics, but rather, every cast member was clad in elaborate and meticulous period clothing. In the small theatre, this enhanced the realism, since the air was filled with the sounds of jingling spurs and swords rattling in their baldrics. Even the stagehands were dressed in black period outfits. This is the sort of costume design that needs to be seen more often in Off-Off Broadway's black box theatres.

As for the rest of the show, this young theatre company did a surprisingly good job, for its first production, and the director's New York debut. Some of the supporting cast was a bit lackluster, but a few of them are still in school, demonstrating an impressive amount of skill despite a lack of experience. Fode Bangoura played the titular Moor opposite Eggers as Iago. The two were strong enough to tackle the roles, and certainly distinguished themselves for such young performers.

Eggers's direction had some nice moments. Before the first scene started, there was a brief seduction scene, where Othello carried Desdemona to their bed and (under eerie red lighting) prepared to ravish the young maiden. Later in the show, as the "green-eyed monster" takes its hold on Othello, a similar scene occured between Cassio and Desdemona, giving the audience a look inside the Moor's head. On occasion the direction lapsed and a few long speeches were directed from stage center, right at the audience, but Eggers still showed considerable potential.

The script was whittled down to a mere one hour and fifty minutes (with no intermission). This is a brisk cut to say the least, but persons unfamiliar with the play won't really notice that nearly half of it has been cut out. Shakespeare enthusiasts will find that this truncated version holds together well enough, even keeping the most famous quotes.

The set comprised only a few pieces; the Duke's throne, a simple campsite, and the fateful nuptial bed. For most of the show the stage was empty, which wasn't a bad thing, since the venue was rather small. A clever compromise was arranged, however, and some scenes involving the bed were performed in an upstage alcove.

Period "Moorish" music was employed, both incidentally and for a nifty Gypsy dance sequence (choreographed and performed by Yifat Sharabi, who also played Bianca). This was quite effective and yet another contribution of Rob Eggers, who handled all of the play's design work in addition to directing and performing.

Othello was the first production by this new theatre company. While it wasn't the finest Othello ever seen, it was certainly a promising freshman effort for a fledgling company. Some surprisingly good production values, an adept editing job, and a few directorial touches make Pale Horse's Othello a notable show.

Also featuring Dashiell Barret, Kate Jannuzi, Tom Macy, Mike Neal, Kaitlin Owens, Adam Pearson, Tom Reitz, and Billy Steel.

Box Score:

Writing: 2
Directing: 1
Acting: 1
Set: 1
Costumes: 2
Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 2005 Charles Battersby