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Critics Hail OTHELLO in mask

From ChicagoCritic.com:

"Often thought to be Shakespeare's greatest tragedy, Othello stands testament to the power of love, hate, and the killer of all things good... jealousy: that most selfish and foolish of human emotions. Polarity Ensemble Theatre brings an intimate portrayal of this great work to The Side Project Theatre.

"Having gone to Japan to do research for their production of Othello in Mask, Polarity Ensemble Theatre attempted to bring age old traditions of Noh, Kabuki and other ritual and international movement forms to their interpretation of Shakespeare’s play of love and loss...

"I saw a cast of sparkling players, working, at times in great union, sweating the passion of Shakespeare’s rich text literally onto the floor...

"...the most successful scenes saw Iago discussing his plans of deception directly to the audience; with sensitive scenes between Othello and Desdemona (played by a lovely Leah Morrow). Wherever Desdemona was onstage she seemed to calm and focus the ensemble. The scene work between her and her partners worked well. She had a terrific scene with Emilia played with tenderness and passion by producer/PET Ensemble member Abigail Trabue...

"This production is a strong ensemble piece and certainly worth a visit."


—Peter Folk, ChicagoCritic.com

From the Chicago Reader:

"...Cliff London's Othello is nobly trusting and Leah Morrow's Desdemona is Kabuki-sly. Abigail Trabue's anguished but stalwart Emilia holds her own well against the jealousy that infects more characters than Othello."

—Lawrence Bommer, Chicago Reader

From SteadStyleChicago.com:

"The acting is surprisingly strong...for a tiny non-Equity storefront mounting of the Bard's tragedy. Being up close and personal with the 8 cast members literally in your lap makes for an intimate and visceral connection with the play. And the young cast is strong and articulate with the verse. Cliff London, so memorable in The Hypocrites' "Angels in America," makes an especially fine Moor. His Othello is sleek, proud and easily duped by his supposed confidant Iago in assuming the worst of his wife. Leah Morrow's gentle Desdemona and Abigail Trabue's fiery Emilia are exceptionally well acted. Mason Hill, who also cleverly designed the Violence Choreography for the small space, brings tremendous energy and charisma to the pivotal role of Iago..."

—Joe Stead, SteadStyleChicago.com

From Time Out Chicago:

-3 stars-

"...the central attraction is that director Brenner and producer Abigail Trabue’s collaboration draws from Japanese, English, and other traditions of masquerade and stylized movement. That is, each mask worn by a character highlights a particular brand of deception: Iago (a versatile Hill) has a jokester’s grin to cover up his sadistic maneuverings; Othello (London) sports a devilish one though his ambitions are pure; Desdemona (Morrow), the levelheaded wife, merely wears a thin layer of white makeup. Meanwhile, characters occasionally crouch low to the floor or, in Iago’s case, move ominously back and forth like a snake.

"In an experiment within the experiment, Iago’s “I hate the moor” monologue breaks the production’s previously established rules as Hill removes his mask. The actor adopts a matter-of-fact pitch and sits in the audience, staring at each one of us individually as he speaks. It’s a fantastic move..."

—Tim Lowery, Time Out Chicago

From NewCity Chicago:

"There are some quiet and affecting moments, especially in Act IV¹s tender exchange between Desdemona and Emilia, the latter beautifully played by the underused Abigail Trabue. And Mason Hill as Iago possesses beautiful, sad and vulnerable eyes that convey as much as his speeches do..."

—Fabrizio O. Almeida, NewCity Chicago

Reviews from Audience Members on metromix.com:

November 24, 2006
chicago, il
What INTIMATE theatre - and what a fabulous way to see "Othello"! This production ROCKS!

November 24, 2006
Eric M. Cherry
Chicago, IL
Polarity Ensemble Theatre's "Othello in mask" is good enough to bring me back to see it a few times, and I want to go again. As with this company's previous plays, I found that I came away with a better understanding of the action, backdrop, and character motivations. I'll probably always need to devote extra attention to catch the dialogue in Shakespeare. One thing about PETheare's performances is that I don't have the sense that the actors are reciting memorized lines; they carry off tone, inflection, and body language that makes it seem like real conversations taking place. The theater itself is easy to reach, just off the Jarvis Red Line stop. There is great food nearby, excellent coffee, and (from what I could tell) relatively easy parking. I highly recommend the show. Bring a friend, get dinner and coffee, and have a great time. - emc

November 22, 2006
Darren Callahan
Chicago, IL
Small theatre, low-budget, but man does this show deliver. Othello is truly all about story and even with the conceit of masks and flashlights, this tale is delivered in high style. The acting is truly exceptional and completely sustains the believability and tension of one of Shakespeares most modern (and melodramatic) plays. This is company worth checking out.

November 22, 2006
chicago, il
I SO enjoyed this "othello" - the most intriguing parts being "the masks" - beautifully made, nicely worked with - and a curiously enticing addition to costumes pretty much being street clothes. the space is TOTALLY unique and well worth the trip to the Jarvis stop on the red line - to see what a creative "hood" this has become ... you'll LOVE seeing Shakespeare this way!!

A special thanks to Cathleen Ann for designing our posters and postcards!

Polarity Ensemble Theatre is a member of the League of Chicago Theatres.

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