About This Clip
Claudia Ríos’ Othello (Hispanicized as Otelo) premiered at Teatro Juan Ruiz de Alarcón, at the main National University Campus in Mexico City, on February 14th 2009. Like every other Shakespeare production at the National University (UNAM), the play attracted a widely diverse audience: students from all schools, academics, critics, and keen theatregoers. The cast included the well‐known actresses from Mexican cinema and TV Ana de la Reguera (Desdemona) and Cecilia Suárez (Emilia). The play was quite successful with audiences, and ran for nearly seven months in a two‐part season, with a break of three weeks or so in between.
Mexican scholar Alfredo Michel Modenessi translated Othello especially for this production into a recognizably Mexican variety of Spanish, yet without any expressly regional inflections. His adaptation brings the text closer to the Mexican audience of the 21st century without becoming overtly local. This is particularly noticeable in Iago and the Fool’s puns and wordplay. For the rest, the translation follows closely the language of Shakespeare’s text: elevated, yet accessible to a modern audience.
The scenery is minimalistic and functional: it is composed of a series of sliding, translucent blue doors at the background. Sometimes the Fool walks into the stage and helps to change the scenery. The costumes were described by a reviewer as “atemporal”; they are reminiscent of corsaries’ attire and of traditional Russian dresses, instead of adopting typical Venetian symbols. Though Hernán Mendoza’s Othello is not overtly characterized as ethnically different, the tattoos on his face and hands, and the clearly non‐Western music that often supports his speech, set him apart from the Venetians. As the director pointed out in an interview, Othello must appear as a character of great physical strength, yet a handkerchief can destroy him. Physical violence is brought to its climax in the appalling scene of Desdemona’s death, which the actors perform on a minimalistic red bed at floor level.
Certain key moments are highlighted by “freezing” the actors while a speaker comments on this frozen instant (for example, Iago’s speech as he watches Cassio kissing Desdemona’s hand). Often, these moments are matched with a well‐accomplished chiaroscuro. The intervention of comic characters may lighten up the stage for a moment, but a dark and menacing atmosphere prevails throughout.
It is worth mentioning that Desdemona: A Play About a Handkerchief by Paula Vogel was presented at the same time in a smaller venue of UNAM, as a companion piece. This pairing offered theatregoers the possibility to experience both Shakespeare’s tragedy and an alternative, feminist view of it.
Direction: Claudia Ríos
Translation and adaptation: Alfredo Michel Modenessi
Scenery: María Fernanda Dibildox and Janet Maggi
Costume design: María and Tolita Figueroa
Sound design: Alejandro Castaños
Lighting design: Matías Gorlero
Date of opening: 14 February 2009
Date of closing: 27 September 2009
Director: Claudia Ríos
Hernán Mendoza – Othello
Ana De la Reguera – Desdemona
Aurora de la Lama – Alternate of Desdemona
Carlos Corona – Iago
Cecilia Suárez – Emilia
Ericka Ramírez – Alternate of Emilia
Osvaldo de León – Cassio
Luis Maggi – Roderigo
Gabriela Pérez Negrete – Bianca
Alejandro Velis – Duke of Venice
Humberto Solórzano – Barbantio, Ludovico
Alan Uribe Villarruel – Gratiano, Senator, Musician, Gentleman, Officer
Antón Araiza – Montano
Luis Rosales – Fool
Edgar Parra – Senator, Musician, Gentleman, Officer
Juan José Cabello – Sailor, Lookout, Gentleman, Officer
Carlos Alberto Román – Messenger, Herald, Gentleman, Officer
Karim Bacre – Musician, Gentleman, Officer
Elías González – Senator, Gentleman, Officer
Luciana Silveyra – Understudy
Venue: First season at Teatro Juan Ruiz de Alarcón, Ciudad Universitaria / Second season at Teatro Julio Castillo. Mexico City, Mexico
Otelo, reviewed by Olga Harmony in the newspaper La Jornada: