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Othello - Woodbridge Senior High School - Woodbridge, Virginia - January 20, 2017

Laras Kettner

McLean High School

"Oh, beware, my lord, of jealousy!" proclaims Iago in Woodbridge Senior High School Theatre Department's modern production of "Othello." The important theme of jealousy is heightened by setting it during the Vietnam War. This creative decision adds a magical element to this fantastic show, making it very real and engaging for the audience.


"Othello" is a famous tragedy by William Shakespeare. It describes the heartbreaking tale of Othello, a soldier who marries the love of his life, Desdemona. After Othello chooses Cassio to be his lieutenant over his close friend Iago, Iago wants revenge and seeks to destroy Othello's life. Iago devises a plan to convince Othello that his wife is cheating on him, which drives Othello mad with jealousy, causing him to make "fatal choices."


Christian Ellis as Othello develops his character magnificently throughout the play. The emotional breakdown of Othello is evident as a tear rolls from his eye, and he is consumed by "the green-eyed monster" of jealousy, fed in part by Iago's wicked lies. Othello's right-hand man is the vengeful Iago, played by Brian Bennett, who portrays a powerful character, engaging/reacting beautifully to other characters, and allowing the terrible revenge he is feeling to reflect in his bloodshot eyes.


Logan Venturino as Cassio proves to be a great source of comedy throughout the show. He stands out in his sultry scenes with Bianca (Allizaeh Wood), and in his wonderful use of pantomime during his drunken stupor. Celeste Taica as Emilia has great character development as she changes from being an obedient wife to becoming an empowered woman. As realization dawns on her that she is but a pawn in her husband's master plan, she displays a devotion to Desdemona (Helen Thompson) that allows her to stand up to her husband.


The soldier ensemble has admirable physicality, reacting commendably to the mood in the play, as most of the characters’ mentalities slowly deteriorate. The chemistry between Othello and Iago is a joy to watch as they both demonstrate a mastery for the Shakespearean language, their voices flowing eloquently as they argue, as if they were talking normally. Emilia and Desdemona's relationship comes alive as they become independent women, willing to stand up for themselves.


Setting "Othello" during the Vietnam war is an artistic choice made by the production crew that makes the show a far more interesting experience. In a real war setting where the audience can relate to the 60s mentality, the play becomes easier to believe. It makes the play more tragic, with the Vietnam War establishing the African American's greater role in the war, that American society still felt conflicted about.


The set of the show is commendable, with colorful signs used to express the love that characterized the 60s and Othello and Desdemona's relationship. The costumes are hippie attire, effectively aligning with the setting. Many technical aspects in the show make it a joy to watch including:  the green lighting to reflect Iago's jealousy, the realistic cigarettes, and the voice that broadcasts on the radio. As director, Fatima Dyfan makes exceptional blocking choices by making use of the whole stage, which is highly engaging for the audience. Through this blocking, the actors were unafraid to make physical contact, establishing the emotional relationships many of them have with each other.


Woodbridge Senior High School's wonderful production of "Othello" is magnificently brought to life by a Vietnam War setting. This modernization of the tragedy paints a picture of the love and mistrust consuming contemporary relationships, allowing the audience to immerse themselves in a show they can apply to their own lives.

Ian Welfley

South Count High School

Jealousy, brutality, animosity, and betrayal all clash in Woodbridge Senior High School’s heartbreaking, uncompromising interpretation of Shakespeare’s tragedy Othello, which chronicles a man’s cataclysmic fall from contentment to absolute sorrow.   


The play is thought to of been written by illustrious playwright William Shakespeare in 1604, and is regarded as one of his greatest works.  The poignant show follows a general at the top of the world by the name of Othello (Christian Ellis), who has been blessed with a beautiful wife and an authoritative, prestigious military rank.  His only mistake is not promoting his supposed friend Iago (Brian Bennett) who, brimming with jealousy and hatred, meticulously plots his vile revenge towards those who have wronged him, all culminating in a tragic climax that leaves no character unscathed.      


Brian Bennett’s detestable portrayal of the play’s antagonist Iago was chilling as much as it was absorbing.  Bennett was able to bring the moral complexity conveyed by the character to life by showing his manipulative, calculating nature not only through tone and inflection, but in his malice, abhorrence suffused eyes.  Contributing to the consistently flowing energy onstage was Christian Ellis as the benevolent, albeit persuadable Othello, whose calamitous turn as the title character left every audience member in tears through his disintegration that Ellis was able to transmit through his subtly withering physicality. Ellis and Bennett’s impeccable stage presence persistently kept their scenes engaging.           


Providing some comic relief to even the most serious scenes was Logan Venturino as Cassio, who was able to balance the serious and humorous lines of his character appropriately.  His hilarious, campy facial expressions always kept his presence noticeable even when he wasn’t speaking.  Bringing to life the tragic women of Desdemona and Emilia were Helen Thompson and Celeste Taica, whose poignant character arcs were maintained eloquently by the talented actresses.  They understood and conveyed the tainted innocence of their characters living in a violent, manipulative world not fit for pure creatures as themselves.  


The show was replete with creative aspects brought to the table by the gifted and proficient student director Fatima Dyfan, whose decision to use the Vietnam War as the show’s setting was substantially effective, further contributing to the overarching tone of the play.  Each set piece brought the period to life, artistically designed by Set Designer Rileigh Perkins.  The makeup was believable and even helped to elevate the intensity of numerous scenes, including convincingly real imitation blood.  The makeup also served to create a more chilling presence from individual characters, with Othello’s scar being authentic as much as it was eerie.  Jaydn David, head of makeup, did a phenomenal job.      


Woodbridge Senior High School has presented an unflinching, dreary look at the manipulative, violent tendencies of man in a rendition of Shakespeare’s Othello, that will cause each audience member to leave the show not only in astonishment at the production, but contemplating the fundamental nature of people.


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