I will never, ever stop being amazed by the endless directorial interpretations of Othello. I've lost count of how many I've seen, but Curio Theatre Company's new production, directed by Dan Hodge, is the latest, and once again, it teases out new (to me) angles in Shakespeare's 400-year-old script.
Here, Hodge, with the help of Brian McCann, presents the lighter side of Iago. Far from the Machiavellian sociopath we've come to know and loathe, McCann's Iago is a frustrated, low-level schemer, little better than poor, doomed Roderigo (Paul Kuhn), poor, doomed Desdemona's bumbling admirer. McCann's and Kuhn's scenes take on a Rosencrantz and Guildenstern pattern of comic banter, and similarly, the pair are swept up in circumstances that, while they are of Iago's own making, spiral fast out of his control. While some Iagos utter the line "This is the night/that either makes me or undoes me quite" with bravado or resignation, in McCann it's all uncertainty. He knows what he's gotten himself into, but it's gone too far to get himself out.
It's always fun to try to pinpoint Iago's motivation, and this time, aside from the usual desire for power and revenge, there's a hint that Iago might have kind of a thing for Desdemona. When Steven Wright's volatile Othello takes Iago's bait and vows to kill his wife, McCann's surprised "But let her live" reveals his apprehension. And after her murder, he refuses to look at the mess he's made, turning his head in every direction except toward the deathbed; it's all fun and games until the bodies start piling up.
As Desdemona, Isa St. Clair, a Renaissance vision with beseeching eyes and long strawberry ringlets, brings all the production's softness. She's a gentle counterpoint to Iago's bitter wife, Emilia (Rachel Gluck), and to Wright, who arrives full-force and remains tightly coiled until he springs, first at Iago, who hits the floor and rolls belly up like a submissive dog, and finally at Desdemona. Though Iago hints that his pawns stepped into the game by their own power, Hodge makes it clear they were all willing to meet him more than halfway.