I was doing a search on Google having to do with Othello and found this posting on the “Get Out There, Richmond” blog. This post is like one of those Christmas presents that somehow gets lost underneath the tree and you don’t find it until you’re taking the tree down. While I’m sorry Ms. Jones found my review “choppy and hard to follow,” I’m glad that it inspired her to think and write more about both the review and the play. I welcome spirited debate of all kinds and I pretty much assume as many people will disagree with me as agree with me.
In his comment, the director Andrew Hamm, largely captured my sentiments (and was way too nicely complimentary to me). I’d only add two things:
1) There’s a bit of a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t situation when it comes to mentioning race in some contexts. For instance, Richmond Shakespeare had Foster Solomon, a black man, playing Hamlet several years back. In my review, I didn’t mention his race at all, calling him “tall, bald and impassioned” but never calling him African-American. Why? Because I didn’t think it mattered in terms of either the production or his performance. A couple of weeks ago, Amy Beigelsen wrote a review of “Steel Magnolias” where she mentions race explicitly. Why? Because race matters in that production; for instance, it prompted some changes to the script to make the cultural references more appropriate. In both of these cases, I think the reviewers did the right thing.
2) In my review, I said the director did not call undue attention to the play’s racial overtones. Something NOT done is hard to describe, so let me do the reverse to illustrate what I mean. In Rick St. Peter’s production of “Taming of the Shrew” at the Barksdale several years ago, Rick blocked one of the fights between Kate and Petruchio as a boxing match, complete with a ring and gloves. That was calling heaps of attention to the play’s “battle of the sexes” overtones.
Finally, one last point (or maybe more exactly, plea for leniency), when you read any review, mine or anybody else’s, remember the writer usually has a relatively tiny amount of space (300 to 500 words) to capture plot, overall impression of the production, specifics on individual performances, and technical merits. For some perspective on how little that is, this post up to right here is about 400 words. Not much space.
If you happen to be planning to go to Las Vegas or Los Angeles in the next couple of days, you could consider trying out for the new reality TV show looking for the leads for “Grease.” Who knows? You could be the next Carrie Underwood! Meaning that, at the next Tony Awards, maybe you’ll get dissed by someone like Patti LuPone when you win best actress the way Faith Hill dissed Carrie.