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Shakespeare For Starters

[whitespace] Robert Jason Jackson Venus Envy: Robert Jason Jackson falls into a web of betrayal, deceit and sexual jealousy in SSC's presentation of 'Othello.'

A brief glimpse into the not-so-confusing world of Shakespeare

By Karen Reardanz

THE THOUGHT OF SHAKESPEARE strikes fear into the hearts of many--it conjures sweaty palm-inducing notions of doths and thees, stodgy Brits and morality-heavy plots you need a Ph.D. and good crib sheet to wade through. But there's a bevy of theatrical joy in the world of the Bard, and this year's Shakespeare Santa Cruz lineup is living, breathing proof. With plots that are easier to decipher than an X-Files episode and storylines richer in imagination than a host of vapid summer blockbusters, this 1998 Shakespeare Santa Cruz roster is shining theatrical proof that there's an accessible supply of delight in Shakespearean prose. So for those who missed a chapter or two of Willy's finest moments, we shall, as they say in the world of hip-hop, break it down.

Much Ado About Nothing
Chock-full of lovers' insecurities, headstrong characters and meddling matchmakers, this charming play is considered one of Shakespeare's most enlightened love stories. The surprising couple of Beatrice and Benedick--two self-proclaimed, lifelong singles-till-death--spar and bicker and battle their way through an undeniable attraction to one another (you know the kind--Cheers' Sam and Diane, Moonlighting's Maddie and David). Add Claudio and Hero's superficial engagement, a handful of supposed promiscuities, and gossip, gossip, gossip, and Much Ado About Nothing becomes a decidedly contemporary look at the importance of a secure relationship.

If Aaron Spelling had been around in the 16th century, this is the Shakespeare work that would have left him foaming at the mouth. Brimming with sex, deceit and betrayal, it's the Melrose Place for the Middle Ages.

Iago, "honest Iago" as he's so often called, is the stage manager and Othello the managed in what is seen as one of the Bard's most intimately tumultuous plays. Othello, the powerful, handsome and brave soldier, marries the young and naive Desdemona. Soon, however, their newly-wed bliss is wrestled to the ground by Iago, a green-eyed monster in human form, who seems to take as much pleasure from cuckoldry as he does from doing the nasty. Jealous of the couple's relationship as well as Othello's position of power, Iago spins a web of lies that soon entangles all the players and, of course, explodes in disastrous results. After all, what Shakespeare tragedy would be complete without disastrous results?

The Marriage of Figaro
Best known to most as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's opera, this play is a working of Ranjit Bolt's translation of the French playwright Beaumarchais' work, considered one of the first modern comedies. Helping to perpetuate the stereotype that the French are tops in the ways of amour, this 18th-century work reverberates with sexual energy, jealousy and the blush of love. The nuptials of Suzanne and Figaro are tested through the trials of envy and confusion as they, with the aid of Cupid himself, try to halt the unwanted advances of Count Almaviva.

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From the July 23-29, 1998 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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