In an ideal world, Butterfield 8 Theatre Company simply would have postponed its opening of "Othello" for a week. Health problems and other troubles forced people to leave the cast and others to assume the roles on short notice.
Curse the guy who said, "The show must go on."
Even though some cast members were only a week or so into their roles and had to read from scripts, the production moved well and had a smooth feel to it. It should be even better when everything is in place.
Am I going to be charitable toward the show? Yep. Am I lying? Nope. For me, it's a case of been there, done that (including being cast in a lead role the week before opening), and I know firsthand that terror is a wonderful motivator.
Also, the concept, with men playing the women's roles and women the men's, is too captivating to just disappear quietly.
John Butterfield, artistic director of the company, also directed this show and plays Emilia, wife of Iago (Beth Chastain), the overly ambitious soldier bent on exacting revenge on Cassio (Becky Potter), who was promoted instead of him, and, eventually, on Othello, (Sam Selliman), a Moor who has secretly married Desdemona (Jake Breckenridge). She is the daughter of Senator Brabantio, so Iago tries to enlist the father's aid, along with that of Roderigo (Elinor Bell), who had been courting Desdemona before she eloped with Othello.
This sets the stage for a banquet of blood as the former friends choose sides and sometimes change them, as Iago seeks to indulge his grudges and make his dreams come true.
It also serves as an excellent arena for the two genders to perform as their opposites. Performing it this way is considerably different and more captivating than having an entire cast of one gender or having only one or two cross-gender roles.
Here, you see how one sex views the other and what outward characteristics they feel are telling in their opposites. So you get a familiar story with an extreme twist, one that lets you follow the unfolding plot while musing on whether an actor would actually stand that way if he were a she, or if she, playing a he, would really clap another fellow on the shoulder like that.
This tends to lead to considerable speculation about gender that goes on well after the show is over, and you can't ask much more from a production than that, even if a cast is grappling with unplanned and temporary challenges.
Contact Pat Craig at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By William Shakespeare, adapted by Maureen-Theresa Williams, presented by Butterfield 8 Theatre Company.
Through: March 24
Where: Cue Productions Live, 1835 Colfax St.,
Running time: 2 hours