Outré Theatre makes its move to Fort Lauderdale with ‘Othello’

Born in Boca Raton, Outré Theatre is a young company with an eclectic artistic vision. Under the leadership of artistic director Skye Whitcomb and managing director Sabrina Lynn Gore, Outré has tackled musicals, a solo show, edgy dramas and the work of William Shakespeare.

Now Outré has relocated to Broward County, specifically the Abdo New River Room at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts. Like Slow Burn Theatre, another troupe that built its reputation in Boca Raton (and is doing two shows in the Abdo this season before moving to the Broward Center’s Amaturo Theater in 2015-16), Outré’s leaders have decided that being based at Broward’s major performing arts center will help their company and their audience grow.

Outré is launching its Fort Lauderdale presence with Shakespeare’s Othello, a large-scale and challenging choice. After a pair of staged readings in February and March, the company will end its first Broward season with the Broadway rock musical Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson. Both that and Othello make a statement about Outré’s ambitions.

Staged by Christina Groom (both Whitcomb and Gore are in the play), Othello remains what it has been for more than 400 years — a rich and towering tragedy about manipulation, political scheming, deadly jealousy and, yes, racial prejudice. Just read the headlines or turn on the news before or after the theater for evidence of the play’s continuing relevance.

Shakespeare is, however, a challenge for any company that doesn’t do the Bard’s works often. The strength of Outré’s production flows from its four leading actors and from Rayner G. Garranchan as the decent, victimized Cassio. The four leads — Troy Davidson as Othello, Faiza Cherie as his wife Desdemona, Whitcomb as the dastardly Iago and Gore as his ill-used wife Emilia — handle the language well and inhabit their characters in an engaging, believable way.

Davidson, who keeps growing as an actor, is a striking, self-assured, even egotistical Othello. As he succumbs to jealousy, that thing Iago describes as a “green-eyed monster,” his haughtiness and brutality grow, yet the actor also conveys Othello’s physical and emotional weakness.

Whitcomb plays Iago as a smiling, relaxed, easy-breezy schemer. Lying is as automatic as breathing for this man whose simmering, largely hidden emotion is rage, hence his penchant for eliminating impediments to his will (including his own wife).

Cherie’s radiant Desdemona is a porcelain innocent, a woman with the strength to defy her father but no will to flee her increasingly abusive husband. Gore’s decent Emilia is similarly obedient, then victimized by a husband who is a master of the art.

The shallow, wide stage in the Abdo New River Room features bright yellow-gold buildings, accented in blue by set designer Antonio Amadeo. They suggest Cyprus in the 1950s, the place and time Groom has chosen for the production. Because of the stage’s limitations, though, the actors tend to fall into horizontal lines, which grows visually less interesting over the course of the play’s three-hour running time.

Outré’s Othello is more decent than dazzling. But it marks the beginning of what all involved hope will be a fruitful artistic presence in Fort Lauderdale.

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