Fortunes of the Moor | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Fortunes of the Moor

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FORTUNES OF THE MOOR, ETA Creative Arts Foundation. This parable of adoption and greed presents a new vision of Shakespeare's Othello. Playwrights Barbara and Carlton Molette imagine a custody battle over the Moor's son, born secretly in a Venetian convent while he's off fighting the wars that made him rich and famous. When Othello's African family arrive to claim the child, they face treachery and racism. Clever plot twists combine with formal language to complement Shakespeare's story, offering a bold critique of the white culture that exploited and destroyed Othello and now threatens his son's life. Director Runako Jahi emphasizes the philosophical and cultural differences between the two families: the Moors are loving, dignified, and clever while the Venetians are greedy, lustful, and condescending. These extremes serve the play's moral conviction that children with any African blood should be raised by black families, though a bond of mutual if cautious respect with any white relations should be maintained.

Unfortunately, the play's thought-provoking message is weakened by underrehearsed performances. No doubt this ETA Creative Arts Foundation staging will improve as the run continues, but last weekend even the strongest performances were interrupted by missed lines, uneven pronunciation, and other lapses. Giving this show a week or so to ripen might help audiences better appreciate the playwrights' daring political commentary on adoption and the history of African exploitation. --Carol Burbank

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