Pittsburgh Public Theater, probably one of the best kept secrets in the Pittsburgh Cultural District, recently welcomed Shakespeare’s “Othello” to the stage. On this evening, the Producing Artistic Director of PPT, and director of “Othello”, Ted Pappas, was outside playing greeter, as he held the door for guests. A simple act that lends to the hands-on and intimate nature of the PPT’s culture.
Celebrating 22 years at PPT, Ted Pappas has staged 49 productions with the company, and continues to create a litany of priceless experiences for the cultural lovers of the city. Directing “Othello” has been a childhood dream of Pappas, and he surely doesn’t disappoint with his latest masterpiece of tragic betrayal.
Entering the theater, the aesthetics of the magnificently simplistic set crafted by Scenic Designer, James Noone, created relaxed and modern undertones. It was an absolute towering inferno of seamless construction, ripe for the anarchy that was looming.
The story of “Othello” takes place in Venice and Cyprus in the mid-19th century, and follows Othello, a Moorish (Muslim) General in the Venetian Army. Often called a “Moor” in the play, which is considered a derogatory term towards Muslims, Othello is loved and respected by most, except for one, Iago, aka “Honest Iago”, as affectionately coined by Othello.
The play revolves around Othello’s trusted confidant and strategist, Cassio (Paul Terzenbach), his loving wife, Desdemona (Amanda Leigh Cobb), and his friendly nemesis, Iago (Jeremy Kushnier).
As Iago’s jealousy rips through the fabric of Othello’s command, the level of deceit, manipulation, and pure evil is manifested in an awe-inspiring, anxiety producing and loathsome display of human depravity so illicit, that one cannot even imagine light at the end of the proverbial tunnel.
Teagle F. Bougere, as Othello, brought the house down with a fervent pursuit of his truth. He flawlessly executed a man apart. Consumed by a manic rage, Othello turns on his most trusted allies, and gives into the greed of hate and revenge, cementing his legacy as a truly tragic figure of consumed failure. Bougere mastered a stark delivery of pain and voluminous emotion that snatched the air from the theater. He was brilliant in every way.
Amanda Leigh Cobb, as Desdemona, filled our hearts with a childlike innocence that Cobb portrayed with such vigor. A true victim of circumstance, her loving arms are riddled in the crossfire of a most deadly game of chess. As she weeps for understanding, seeking light, her world falls apart. Cobb’s performance is filled with misguided contriteness and whimsical diligence. Until her last breath, she induces elegance, and truly owned the stage, even as a second class citizen.
Kushnier enveloped his role, and made it extremely difficult for the crowd not to throw their programs at him. Open deceit for the sake of a self-serving vendetta until his plight of destruction is justified. Kushnier showed a true mastering of villainy.
The entire cast fashioned an entertaining and gut-wrenching performance, as we’ve come to expect from PPT productions. This is not one to be missed.
Othello runs through May 17th. For ticketing information, visit ppt.org