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“Why, how now, ho! from whence ariseth this? / Are we turn’d Turks, and to ourselves do that / Which heaven hath forbid the Ottomites?”
Othello Act II, scene iii.
Daniel Spector’s version of Othello is compressed and concise, which is a blessing in the dog days of summer, in a black box theater that can’t run air conditioning and stage lights at the same time. Though the cuts to the script leave a couple of faint scars, the staging of what remains is coherent and convincing. The actors do their part too, reciting their lines with the modest truth, nor more, nor clipped, but so. Nothing ruins Shakespeare like languorous, rambling delivery that tries to get out of the poetry’s metrical straightjacket. And some clever stage and light design heighten the intimacy between the performers and the audience.
A group of friends have gathered to drink beers and smoke buds under the powerlines in suburban Massachusetts in remembrance of their friend Justin, who died under mysterious circumstances at the end of high school. Now, thirteen years later, they have made their anniversary pilgrimage to a spot by a cliff in the shadow of electrical transmission towers, to party in remembrance of him.
But tonight will be different.
Joey (Nat Cassidy), a successful Hollywood writer with a famous singer girlfriend Gretyl Barnes (Lori E. Parquet) and the only member to make it out, has returned as with a proposition. Joey wants to know how Justin really died, and he’s willing to give a brand new Porsche to the one who can tell him. But Stu (Matt Archambault) doesn’t want Joey to learn their innermost stories about Justin. Stu says Joey is a sellout who used his friends’ lives to get rich in Hollywood, and Stu is sick of having his life appropriated without getting the spoils.
The Fire This Time festival, now in its fourth year, features ten minute plays by young and emerging playwrights of color. (Check out my review for the 2010 season.) The founding producer Kelley Nicole Girod’s mission with The Fire This Time (the name of the festival is a play on the title of James Baldwin’s book The Fire Next Time) is to broaden the scope of the Theatre of Color to include not only African-Americans and the conventions of Baldwin’s generation of writers, but to “any play written by a black playwright . . . even if it is a play about two white people in love.” This is an expansive definition of what constitutes “black theatre,” and the playwrights whose works are featured this year explore many of its implications.
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