Oak Park Festival Theatre Presents THE VENETIANS Review—Belonging and Betrayal

Oak Park Festival Theatre THE VENETIANS

After a fade-in, we see a man standing in front of a Zoom background of old, stone buildings. Covered in a black cloak and carrying a bundle in his arms, Aaron’s ghost speaks directly to us, detailing his story. The soft cries of a baby cut through Aaron’s dialogue. As Aaron raises his hand to comfort the baby in his arms, we see that his hand is covered in blood. He ponders his bloody hand before a blackout brings us back to the conversation between Othello and Desdemona.

Aaron’s ghost disrupts the play and breaks the fourth wall. In secrets and foreshadowing, Aaron becomes our narrator, helping us understand the story’s twists and turns. As the combined prologue of both The Tragedy of Othello and The Merchant of Venice, The Venetians follows familiar Shakespearean characters as they navigate illicit weddings, family matters, and national identity. In playwright Matt Barbot’s modern Shakespearean language, featuring nailed-down performances by the actors, The Venetians offers a tale that questions love and belonging in a way that you, too, might agree would make Shakespeare proud.  

Oak Park Festival Theatre Invests Us Entirely

The Venetians employs modern language, but the dialogue still carries the weight and emotion behind Shakespeare’s language. In one particular scene, after borrowing money from Shylock, the money-lender, Iago, breaks the fourth wall and leans in to speak to us. He admits he doesn’t know what his diabolical plan is to receive a desperately needed promotion from Othello. He defends himself by saying, 

“When a spider is building its web, does it know which strand will yield a fat fly or if it’s even spun that line yet?” 

Carefully crafted language and metaphors like this fill every scene.

Oak Park Festival Theatre THE VENETIANS

Without the mischievous and comedic facial expressions and physical movements of actors like Andres Enriquez (Iago) and Christopher Wayland (Aaron), we might never enter the story so directly.  You too, like this reviewer, might find their performances captivating, such that your physical surroundings seem to disappear as you fully enter the story.

The Venetians is suited for fans of Shakespeare and anyone interested in a story interwoven with clever dialogue and acting that immediately hooks you.

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Cast:

Jordan Arrendondo, Andres Enriquez, Ellen Campbell, Mike Dailey, Lawrence Grimm, Bryant Hayes, Shana Laski, James Vincent Meredith, Savanna Rae, Matty Robinson, and Christopher Wayland.

Director:

Edward Torres

Cast:

Jordan Arrendondo, Andres Enriquez, Ellen Campbell, Mike Dailey, Lawrence Grimm, Bryant Hayes, Shana Laski, James Vincent Meredith, Savanna Rae, Matty Robinson, and Christopher Wayland.

Director:

Edward Torres

When: 

Thru May 16

Where:

Streaming via Oak Park Festival Theatre website

Images courtesy of Oak Park Festival Theatre

Tickets:

$25

Visit the Oak Park Festival Theatre website to purchase tickets.

Annabelle Harsch
Annabelle Harsch

About the Author: Annabelle Harsch

Annabelle has perpetual graphite smears on her hands from stories she wrote. She’s written about secrets and regret, but her favorite things to write about are love and dragons, good or bad. When Annabelle isn’t reading and writing, she’s usually hiking or buying plants and books.

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