Ted Lange’s “The Cause, My Soul” aka Prequel to Shakespeare’s “Othello”: From the Calm before the Storm to the Charm before the Scorn

Photo Courtesy of Mary Lange

(L-R) Desdemona and Othello; Photo Courtesy of Mary Lange

Ah Othello, Desdemona, Cassio, Rodrigo, Iago–the entire Venetian gang: Back together again for the very first time!!! The suspense, the duplicity, the black vs. white racial tension, the revelation of which would stun most in the Black Lives Matter community for better or for worse and the revolution of which would surely not be televised…

What if you could look into the burgeoning tension leading up to the Bard’s beginning encompassing the nuptials of Othello and Desdemona; time machining it back to their meeting as means to an end to another stellar play (come right before it) sporting questions only to be answered such as “How in heck did beer swilling Cassio obtain endorsement as Othello’s Lieutenant when he is clearly more of a numbers guy?” (Note: Cassio/Casio–like the perfect-branded calculator everybody owned back in the 70s/80s—the 1970s/80s to be precise—and speaking of time machines, almost as if culled from a documented digital script). And what of Iago: The War hero with the heart of blazing guns and a fire in his belly to match; in an all-seeing eye of preemptive strikes in all manner of personal and professional plots ever hatched? Why not have given him the promotion?  Moreover, what lead to such dismissal?

How did Cassio end up shacking up with Bianca sans co-nuptial bliss. (There’s a priest in the play. Don’t tell me he never noticed!) For it couldn’t have been ‘cause he was good with getting that number—well HER number to be precise. And concerning Emilia, how does she really feel about Desdemona and is she truly as supportive a confidante as she appears in the ensuing original…? And just what, oh what makes Desdemona love Othello and wax so semi-grossed out by Rodrigo?

(L-R) Othello, Desdemona, Brabantio; Photo Courtesy of Mary Lange

(L-R) Othello, Desdemona, Brabantio; Photo Courtesy of Mary Lange

Moving on to religion: How would such differences betwixt Othello and his bride-to-be have played out and–oh my goodness–how would they ever keep their burgeoning romance and marriage alike from Desdemona’s bulldoggish dad Brabantio until the zero hour/nuclear winter of his hissy fit; in the shadow of their quest to depart for Cypress to defeat the Turks in just a bit?!? And just how did Othello come to be the sole—or one of the sole–Moors (with an overabundance of soul in his own right—as compared to his pasty-faced Venetian friends) residing in Venice at a time when such travel, let alone privileges in mobility were unheard of? Well, that is exactly what Ted Lange sets out to explore in his latest play—and number 25 to boot– The Cause, My Soul.

Set in the self same City where it begins and on the cusp of where it all ends, the play picks up on a course for adventure of Iago’s failed romance and all Othello’s actualized to burgeoning ones during the time they are on fertile soil, rife with all manner of wives and women, and prepping to board The Lonely Boat yet again for Cypress.

The Priest, Desdemona and Iago; Photo Courtesy of Mary Lange

The Priest, Desdemona and Iago; Photo Courtesy of Mary Lange

Sporting not only nods to the time in which it was writ, the piece itself contains rather clever and stand out references to erstwhile and coexistent Shakespeare plays. Concerning Othello’s bid to marry Desdemona, the town church priest can only warn him about the time he indulged an even less controversial pairing betwixt two kids each of whose families thought the other SU-UCKED! Cassio can only write about the “Autumn” of his apathy…or is that agitation, and concerning his Muslim assignation Othello can only muse (and I paraphrase in part herein):  “For well you know the Christian name of God instead of Allah, ever they are both the same.  And what is in a name?”

(L-R) Cassio, Bianca and Iago; Photo Courtesy of Mary Lange

(L-R) Cassio, Bianca and Iago; Photo Courtesy of Mary Lange

Mr. Lange himself belts out some keen zingers from the stage in rhymed couplets, in his introduction and instruction, and at the point of his entrance regarding exits, to speak nothing of smart phone telephone usage, “alas poor Samsung” (but admonishes nothing concerning the dumb ones—phones that is, and as a result, I am too dumb to know whether or not you might use THOSE during the course of the play or not…NAY but I JEST!!!) So even before this tale, woven as if by the self same imagined threads of the all too prevalent strawberry handkerchief, Ted Lange, formerly known as Isaac the Bard-tender has ‘em rollin’ in the aisles, and/or in stitches—again just like said handkerchief…

And to speak more of the handkerchief in question, the one used in the play is certainly eye-catching as are most of the costumes to boot! So when you see it, please thank Mylette Nora for her arresting costume design whether mentally or in person.

(L-R) Iago and Emilia; Photo Courtesy of Mary Lange

(L-R) Iago and Emilia; Photo Courtesy of Mary Lange

Produced by Mary Lange, and directed by Ted Lange, just as well as it is written, the cast is the perfect nth character to dot all I’s and cross everything else to a T! Bruce Cervi as The Duke of Venice is studied, steadfast and stately. Gordon Goodman as Brabantio is regal, refined, and regaling. Paul Messinger as the Priest is commanding and kinda hilarious! Jessica Moreno as Emilia is at first sympathetic, then simpering then just well…kinda pathetic.  Chrystee Pharris as Bianca is sexy, scheming, and cocksure (in more ways than one, if you know what I mean—wink wink). Iago brought to us by the perfectly timed–comedic or otherwise–Stephen Spiegel, is cunning, concentrated and cocksure (yes, again but minus the double entendre above…then again maybe not…) Michael Proctor as Cassio is a likeable, dimwitted dullard except when it comes to the ol’ numbers. And Rodrigo…Rodrigo is just awful—as a singer to speak nothing of his clingy non-ex-boyfriend demeanor—I mean, just terrible…  His caterwauling alone is like a water buffalo trying to strangle itself with its own tail!  That of course is a good thing and brought to us all humorously and spiritedly enough (aside from the spineless singing) by an adorable Steve Ducey. Lindsey Santeforte as Desdemona is brought to us as a near ethereal sprite and Thomas Anthony Jones as Othello is an intense, charming and sexy delight!

So, will Othello ever defeat Darth Vader in his Phantom return to the Death Star and come to realize that Princess Leia is a Sister from another Mister? (Oh wait, wrong trilogy yet I wouldn’t put it past Ted Lange to unite a sequel to the central play itself—okay so the main characters are both most probably truly dead, but perhaps they could pair up and make an appearance in a later version of Hamlet and all would even out…?)

The Cause, My Soul is presented at the Odyssey Theatre until May 1st.  And as resounding coincidence would have it, runs during the course of the 400 year anniversary of the noble Bard’s birth and death: April 1564-April 23 1616, coincidence…? I think NOT!

For tickets and information, please visit:

www.odysseytheatre.com 

Jennifer K. Hugus

About Jennifer K. Hugus

Jennifer K. Hugus was born at a very young age. At an even earlier age, she just knew she would one day write for the LA Beat! Having grown up in Massachusetts, France, and Denmark, she is a noted fan of Asian Cuisine. She studied ballet at the Royal Danish Ballet Theatre and acting at U.S.C. in their prestigious BFA drama program. She also makes her own jewelry out of paints and canvas when she isn’t working on writing absurdist plays and comparatively mainstream screenplays. Jennifer would like to be a KID when she grows up!
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