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Othello (American Sephardi Federation)

A tantalizing Sephardi production of a Shakespeare classic.

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Elena Barone and David Serero in a scene from the American Sephardi Federation’s production of “Othello”

Elena Barone and David Serero in a scene from the American Sephardi Federation’s production of “Othello”

Joel Benjamin

Joel Benjamin, Critic

The idea of an Othello adapted in a Moroccan style was, I admit, tantalizing.   Having just seen the Public Theater’s hilarious, all-female production of The Taming of the Shrew in Central Park’s Delacorte Theater, I was in the mood for another innovative approach to an old classic.

In this distillation of the Shakespeare tragedy—very close, ironically, to the José Limón ballet The Moor’s Pavane—Desdemona’s (Elena Barone) handkerchief, a gift from Othello, is offered as proof of her infidelity when it is found in Cassio’s (Ian Cooper) possession, placed there by Iago, played as a growling “Sopranos”-style thug by Christopher Romero Wilson.  As his manipulated wife, Emilia, Amanda Vilanova ardently and clearly communicated her love for her mistress Desdemona and her hatred for her awful husband.  Ms. Barone was both tender and strong as Desdemona.

David Serero, Amanda Vilanova and Elena Barono in a scene from the American Sephardi Federation’s production of “Othello”

David Serero, Amanda Vilanova and Elena Barono in a scene from the American Sephardi Federation’s production of “Othello”

Mr. Cooper spoke his lines well.

Mr. Serero, when he spoke to the audience after the show, was an absolute charmer, telling stories of his bar mitzvah.  He eloquently showed his appreciation for the hardworking Shawn Chang who played effective background music on the piano and Geoff Thomas on the darbuka (a drum) whose percussive sound effects provided dramatic tension.

The costuming—uncredited—looked authentically Moroccan.

Othello (June 16, 23, 26, 28 and 30, 2016)

Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, in Manhattan

For tickets, call 800-838-3006 or visit http://www.AmericanSephardi.org

For more information, visit http://www.asfothello.bpt.me

Running time: one hour and 15 minutes with no intermission

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Joel Benjamin
About Joel Benjamin (316 Articles)
JOEL BENJAMIN was a child performer on Broadway and danced with leading modern dance and ballet companies. Joel has been attending theater, ballet and opera performances ever since childhood, becoming quite opinionated over the years. He was the founder and artistic director of the American Chamber Ballet and subsequently was massage therapist to the stars before becoming a reviewer and memoirist. He is a member of the Outer Critics Circle.

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