By Amos Crawley
Published July 18, 2016
Among the very favourite arguments that the budding English scholar likes to indulge in: What exactly motivates that greatest of all villains, Iago? While there are passing references to the insult of his not being named to a higher office and his suspicion that Othello has had his way with Iago's wife Emilia, at the end of the day he seems to be just evil. Mischievous. Cruel for cruelty's sake.
What we often forget in our desire to keep Shakespeare on his pedestal is that the reason ole Billy is up there in the first place is that he was more interested in human nature than story structure. Iago is childish, petty and human. Othello is gullible, jealous and quick to anger. Why? 'Cause they're flawed. They're human.
Within her formal exercise of gender reversal and setting the Moor of Venice's tale in a modern day high school (this being a formalist exercise it's less an HWDSB school than one that exists in the realm of a high school movie), Ms Huh's greatest accomplishment is that by investigating story structure - coming at it backwards, as it were - she highlights just how human these character's actually are.
Who is more in touch and feels as deeply than a teenager? The core of our downfalls is most blatant in our immaturity and is best exemplified by our most emotionally alive years.
By making Othello into Othella, Ms Huh shows us that we are all fallible and that our identities while more fluid than ever don't protect us from the ravages of the green eyed monster.
One of the biggest laughs among many, is the line, spoken by a young girl: "Jealousy can be like... Super bad." It's true. It points out the basic imbecility of many of Shakespeare's plots while not removing any of the enjoyment the audience gets from being swept along.
In this totally un-precious take on the story, Ms Walton keeps the production tight, the cast are obviously having a ball and the pace at which the show moves keeps us invested and brings gender politics, racial issues and the dangers of not properly communicating to the fore without ever feeling like a lecture.
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