Originally written by Paula Vogel, Desdemona: A Play about a Handkerchief is a retelling of Shakespeare’s classic tragedy and gives a voice to the female characters who were overshadowed in the original text. Desdemona, Emilia and Bianca find a new lease of life as this feminist production, directed by Joan Hart Willard, transforms these characters into unrecognisably feisty, crude and multidimensional women.
The Oswego State Theatre Department presents the tale of a ‘complex vixen, with a lust for life’. A small cast consisting of only three members: Dana Ernest as Desdemona, Clare Bawarski as Bianca and Robin Rubeo as Emilia, the play focuses on the relationship between these three characters and allows them to stand alone, rather than being defined by the men in their lives. ‘There’s no such thing as friendship between women’ Emilia cries as we enter a world of backstabbing, dishonesty and debauchery; where is the virtuous angel now?
The production is both humorous and well-acted. Desdemona, originally depicted as the embodiment of perfection and innocence, is transformed into a saucy minx who has slept with most of Othello’s encampment. Ernest does well depicting a haughty, impudent and wicked adaptation of Desdemona. Bawarski, playing a naïve yet streetwise prostitute yearning for the love of Cassio, displays a good sense of comedic timing and entertains the audience well. However, what I can only assume to be an ‘Irish’ accent put on by Rubeo was bizarre and often had a Jamaican twang to it; unfortunately, this was highly distracting and detracted from her solid performance.
The play suffered a little from a slow pace. The decision to use the lighting as a way of signifying time passing became tedious after a while. Surely the lights do not need to come on and off three times while Emilia was brushing Desdemona’s hair! This meant that the play seemed a little disjointed and fragmented at times.
The three young actresses all displayed real promise in their acting abilities. An entertaining and sassy take on the original play ‘Othello’, Desdemona: A play about a Handkerchief is thoroughly enjoyable.