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Teen Critic: Othello

The Teen Critic Program at Shakespeare Theatre Company allows high school students interested in theatre, journalism and/or critical writing the opportunity to learn how to view productions with a critical eye and write a savvy, persuasive theatre review. The Teen Critics attend each production, receive a press packet, preferred press seating and have the opportunity to meet with professional theatre critics from local newspapers before writing their own reviews.

Over the season you’ll have the chance to get to know the Teen Critics through whole and excerpted reviews. Below are selections from their reviews for Othello. For these pieces, the students were asked to write a short script for a video review. They were instructed to write as if the piece were going on TV or Youtube, and to think about speaking to their peers.

Othello, Shakespeare Theatre Co.

Faran Tahir as Othello in the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s production of Othello, directed by Ron Daniels. Photo by Scott Suchman.

Tara McLaughlin, 9th Grade, The Potomac School

The Shakespeare Theatre Company’s recent production of the tragedy Othello once again exceeds expectations. They morphed Othello into something new and unexpected. Instead of using a black actor to play Othello—as most modern productions do—STC used a Pakistani man by the name of Fahran Tahir. Othello is basically the story of a man named Othello—big surprise—and his short-lived marriage to Desdemona, the daughter of a Venetian Senator, played respectively by Ryman Sneed and Ted van Greithuysen. Othello is tricked by the mastermind Iago, played by Jonno Roberts, into believing that his wife is cheating on him. Shakespeare once again proves that all you have to do to not die is communicate.

Jack LaFleur, 11th Grade, Georgetown Day School

Last week, I saw Othello at the Shakespeare Theatre Company, starring Faran Tahir in the title role. Tahir is of Pakistani descent, but traditionally the character of Othello is played by a black actor, so I was interested in seeing how character interactions would change in this production…but, honestly, they didn’t really change much. I mean, Othello’s race is obviously an issue in the play, but which specific race he is doesn’t really seem to matter that much.

Othello, Shakespeare Theatre Co.

Ryman Sneed as Desdemona and Faran Tahir as Othello in the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s production of Othello, directed by Ron Daniels. Photo by Scott Suchman.

Lydia Gompper, 11th Grade, George Mason High School

The performers themselves were all-around amazing. Faran Tahir, who played Othello himself, really excelled in his most intense scenes. There were a few moments, as he succumbed further and further into monstrosity due to Iago’s manipulation, where he legitimately frightened me. Iago, portrayed by Jonno Roberts, was also outstanding. What really struck me about Roberts’ portrayal was how he gave Iago a rather casual, wry characterization, but during certain scenes you could see this sub-layer of hate and real darkness inside him. Lastly, Ryman Sneed, who played Othello’s wife Desdemona, was fantastic both as the subject of Othello’s love and as an emotionally deep character in her own right.

Sophia Vassallo, 11th Grade, T.C. Williams High School

Here’s an overview:

Good: The set was stark and dark, which fit the mood of the play and allowed the audience to focus more on the complex plot.

Good: Special effects and lighting. The effect of the fog on the set was really cool, especially in the opening scenes in the streets of Venice. Nice job lighting designer.

Good: Any scene between Iago (Jonno Roberts) and Othello. Tumultuous relationship between the two perfectly captured by superb acting. Side note: Othello’s on stage seizure—ridiculously cool. Good job stage manager Cynthia Cahill.

Othello, Shakespeare Theatre Co.

Raka Banerjee, 9th Grade, Washington High School

What most impressed me about the performance was the lighting, done by Christopher Akerlind. The light plays a major role in supporting the theme. The actors are always talking about being in the dark or light, and the lighting in the show did the same thing. Sometimes they used flashlights; other times they used the spotlight to bring certain characters in focus…Not only was the lighting strong but the way some of the actors interacted with the light was impressive.

Othello, Shakespeare Theatre Co.

Jonno Roberts as Iago and Merritt Janson as Emilia in the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s production of Othello, directed by Ron Daniels. Photo by Scott Suchman.

Emma Skinner, 9th Grade, George C. Marshall High School

Othello, Shakespeare Theatre Co.

Patrick Vaill as Cassio and Jonno Roberts as Iago in the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s production of Othello, directed by Ron Daniels. Photo by Scott Suchman.

Not to be forgotten are Ryman Sneed, playing Desdemona, Merritt Janson, who plays Emilia, and Patrick Vaill, who is Cassio. As Desdemona, Sneed is convincingly innocent. Her acting portrays Othello’s wife as a loyal woman who is obedient but still willing to stand up for herself. Although she may not get as much time on the stage to develop her character as Othello or Iago, she does an admirable job. Some of the most memorable moments in the entire show come from Emilia and Cassio, two characters who are heavily embroiled in the complex tricks that Iago weaves around Othello. They bring dark humor to the stage in their movements, each making their motives and faults clear to the audience. By far, this show is character-driven. Each actor puts their whole heart into creating a rich, multi-faceted story. Some scenes are witty, some thought-provoking, some tragic.

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