Desdemona--A Play About a Handkerchief | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Desdemona--A Play About a Handkerchief

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Heliotrope Productions, at TurnAround Theatre.

This is not the virtuous Mrs. Othello of Shakespeare's drama but a spoiled, selfish, foulmouthed, tantrum-throwing brat who could have been lifted right out of Melrose Place. Here her companions are Emilia, a pious house laundress, and Bianca, an earthy local madame who graciously allows the sly Desdemona to work a brothel room from time to time. Desdemona's immediate plans are to desert her abusive husband and run away with a rich former suitor. You might argue that she doesn't deserve death for these crimes, but you'd be hard put to find anyone to defend her.

You'd be equally hard put to find the feminist message author Paula Vogel claims to have buried in this script, which seems fueled more by tabloid cattiness than by any sympathy for Shakespeare's blameless victim. But director Virginia Smith and her trio of accomplished actresses--Suzi Regan as Desdemona, Annalise Raziq as Emilia, and Sueellen Burton as Bianca--pour so much invention, intelligence, and charm into their interpretation of Vogel's shallow text that you can't help but be enchanted.

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