The Moor Unhinged

Jealousy, racism, deception and betrayal. Sounds like a recipe for the latest HBO series…sort of like The Borgias…only steamier. No, it’s not that at all. It’s The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice, written perhaps in 1603, and now given a new spin at a 90-minute performance at the new amphitheater at the Hudson River Museum on Saturday night, July 13th. Directed by Chris Edwards, seven actors play all the parts. That is a signature aspect of the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival, now in season at Boscobel Mansion in Garrison. It is the story of a guy driven to murder his beautiful wife Desdemona because he believes unwittingly that she is unfaithful.  Now who does that sound like?  Unfortunately, too many of the men who are headlined in the news in domestic abuse cases.  So prepare to be both entertained and educated too, because this is an epidemic in our own society.

This Othello is an updated modern version of this classic universal story with settings in two military camps, one in Venice and one in Cyprus. Hudson Valley Shakespeare has performed it in schools with such convincing reality that, according to Maggie Whitlum, Executive Director, “The kids didn’t believe the actors weren’t soldiers. It is power politics at its most evil with innocent people drawn into destruction, sexual and racial jealousy and violence, so real that the kids were shocked.”  And yes there are lessons in this myth that are only too real. One of them is the danger of lying. What puzzled me is that with all the violence teenagers see in movies and on TV, why were the kids so shocked? Says Whitlum: “That’s the value of live performance. It is real, the audience is not shielded by a screen. They are in the same room and engaged with the actors.”  The performance on Saturday night begins at 7pm and ends with a discussion with the actors.

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