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Theater review: The Bard in B’ville

Trevor Hill, Maxwell Anderson excel in BTG’s ‘Othello’

— Shakespeare meets Santana in Baldwinsville Theatre Guild’s current production of “Othello,” set in the 1960s against the backdrop of war, pacifism, civil rights and free love.

But don’t worry.

Thanks to a hard-working cast of 11, this updated version of Shakespeare’s 1603 tragedy thankfully remains true to the Bard’s skillfully structured drama as its characters are captured in an intricate web of lies.

Actor Trevor Hill enjoys playing the insidious Iago.

“[Co-director] Stephanie Long made it so much fun to be evil,” he wrote in the play’s program notes. It shows. But Hill’s Iago is as frolicsome as he is treacherous. He revels in taunts about cash and chianti as enthusiastically as he schemes to bring down his Moorish leader, Othello, the general whom Iago secretly hates.

Although bad to the bone, this Iago is more than a monster. He’s also desperately human.

The character’s humanity crystallizes in Hill’s capable hands. Having portrayed Romeo, Hamlet and McDuff in previous local productions, the actor has developed the ability to transform the playwright’s old English into lines that resonate in modern ears. “Luscious as locusts,” indeed!

As the obsessively duplicitous Iago, Hill makes evil entertaining.

Playing the title character, Maxwell Anderson well complements Hill’s bravura performance. While Iago bellows like a madman, Anderson’s Othello nearly whispers many lines.

Although subtly restrained, the elegant Anderson displays considerable stage presence whether Othello’s fawning over his beloved Desdemona or commanding his troops as they invade Cyprus.

Having already appeared at such prestigious venues as Syracuse Stage (in “The Miracle Worker”) and Philadelphia’s Merriam Theatre (in “Katrina Monologues”), the youthful Anderson is well on his way to a professional career. While Othello is a tragically flawed character and very much a second fiddle to Hill’s scheming Iago, Anderson plays the part with understated verve and vigor, finally imploding with palpable remorse in the play’s final scene.

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