Review “Othello” (Babes with Blades): Passionate and Powerful!

Babes with Blades Theatre Company presents OTHELLO.

Under the skillful direction of Mignon McPherson Stewart, the Babes mount an all-female cast for OTHELLO. William Shakespeare penned this tragedy play about jealousy, betrayal, revenge and redemption.

The focal point of the story is the love between Othello (played by an outstanding Brianna Buckley) and Desdemonda (played by understudy Mary Eliza Willingham). Their recent elopement is the impetus for a series of hate crimes. Although a general in the Venetian army, Othello is a Moor, a member of a northwestern African Muslim people of mixed Berber and Arab descent. He is despised by Desdemonda’s father and his own confidante Iago (played with conviction by Kathrynne Wolf). Iago, in particular, is intent on destroying Othello. His hate will lead to a web of deceit and destruction. 

Wolf plays diabolical unapologetically. She is perfect at feigning impromptu thoughts that serve a facade for the rollout of her evil plan. Wolf addresses the audience almost as if her intent is a light-hearted prank against the general. Wolf captures the Shakes’ comedic misdirect of needling a character to action… but this isn’t a Shakespearean comedy! As Wolf’s manipulations escalate, passions ignite violent explosions.

Othello is Iago’s primary target.

Buckley is a superb Othello! She delivers an impressive range of emotional transformation. Initially, she is cocky in her stature as general and husband. Buckley openly gushes over her love for her bride. Later as Wolf plants big bulbs of suspicion, Buckley begins to question Desdemonda’s fidelity. Buckley goes from snide sidebars to vicious verbal attacks to raging lunacy to unconsolable despair. Buckley brings an all-consuming intensity that reverberates throughout Factory’s intimate space.

Also noteworthy is Meredith Ernst (Cassio). Ernst gives a hilarious turn as a drunk. Her performance seemed to channel SNL Kate McKinnon. Ernst also delivers the Shakespearean prose with sincerity and ease. Her comfort in the text makes her conversations feel more natural.   

And what’s a Babes with Blades’ show without their signature action? Shakespeare gave them the ideal play to brandish weapons. Fight Director and Intimacy Designer Samantha Kaufman masterfully orchestrates the brutality. The fighting breaks out on multiple occasions. The closeness of the space makes the hostility uncomfortably close. And when Buckley unleashes her savagery, the audience collectively holds it breath. The threat of danger is too real.   

This OTHELLO is one to see! Led by Buckley, Wolf and Ernst, this all-female cast powerfully illustrate the devastation of hate.                 

Running Time: Two hours and thirty minutes with an intermission

At The Factory Theater, 1623 W. Howard

Written by William Shakespeare

Directed by Mignon McPherson Stewart

Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 8pm

Sundays at 3pm

Thru May 25th

Buy Tickets

All Photos by Joe Mazza/Brave Lux

For more Chicago theatre information and reviews, please visit Theatre in Chicago

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