PROVIDENCE — The most poignant — and most memorable — scene in Trinity Rep’s production of Shakespeare’s “Othello” now on stage through March 18, is the one with the play’s only female characters; Desdemona, Emilia and Bianca.
While Desdemona (played tenderly by Rebecca Gibel), the heartsick wife of Othello (Jude Sandy)m prepares for bed, she sings a mournful tune, the folk ballad, called “The Willow Song,” a song with the last line; “Write this on my tomb, that in love I was true.” She is having a premonition of her death. Her death at the hands of her husband.
Desdemona cannot understand what has made her husband so paranoid, enraged and full of jealousy. She knows not that Iago (Stephen Thorne is overpowering) has planted suspicion in Othello’s heart by means of a handkerchief. Iago, in a rage himself ever since Othello passed him over for a promotion for Cassio (Charlie Thurston,) is detemined to take revenge so manufactures a story about Desdemona being unfaithful and in love with Cassio.
In her anguish and confusion, Desdemona sings the haunting tune as she sits upon her bed, placed in the middle of the otherwise empty stage. Emilia (Angela Brazil is terrific) her loyal maid – and Iago’s wife – joins her in the sorrowful lament while she helps prepare Desdemona for sleep. Off stage, high up in the parapet, Bianca (L’Oreal Lampley) Cassio’s “whore,” who was unwittingly involved in the handkerchief lie, joins the other two women, echoing the refrain.
The scene offered a welcome respite from the rest of the play and all those men behaving badly. Trinity’s “Othello” is long (close to three hours on Monday night) and is often difficult to understand. I kept waiting for a spark of passion between Gibel and Sandy, but alas, t’was was none to be seen.
“Othello” runs through March 18 at Trinity Rep.