Old Globe's 'Othello' is music to everybody's ears
by CHARLENE BALDRIDGE
Jul 11, 2014 | 609 views | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print
As Othello, the Moor of Venice, Blair Underwood hoists ladylove Desdemona (Kristen Connolly).  PHOTO BY JIM COX
As Othello, the Moor of Venice, Blair Underwood hoists ladylove Desdemona (Kristen Connolly). PHOTO BY JIM COX
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Editor's note: This column marks the return of Charlene Baldridge to La Jolla Village News after a two-year absence that seemed to last for a generation.

Theater and music intertwine in artistic director Barry Edelstein’s Old Globe production of Shakespeare’s “Othello,” playing through July 27. New York composer Curtis Moore provides a percussion suite to underscore the mounting tension in the play’s speech and action. Who better to perform the music than Ryan Nestor and Jonathan Hepfer, two UCSD-affiliated percussionists, the sequestered house right in their own orchestra pod midway up the wall of the Lowell Davies Festival Theatre?

The suite is primarily scored for marimba and vibraphone, but the two also play a collection of tam-tams and cymbals. They share bass drum, and Hepfer plays a taiko drum. Whenever Iago is devising his schemes, Hepfer says, the two play a bowed waterphone.

Hepfer is a member of red fish blue fish, UCSD’s acclaimed percussion ensemble. He performs regularly at Los Angeles Monday Evening Concerts, for which he is associate curator and producer. Also active with red fish blue fish, Nestor is a doctoral candidate at UCSD and was principal percussionist of La Jolla Symphony, conducted by UCSD professor Steven Schick.

Schick, artist in residence with the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) and artistic director of San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, is to be inducted into the Percussive Arts Society Hall of Fame at their November conference in Indianapolis. The peripatetic 60-year-old will be the 2015 music director of the Ojai Festival.

“Othello” stars television and film star Blair Underwood as Othello and television and film star Richard Thomas as evil Iago, the fair-weather friend who manipulates Othello to his own ends. Thomas began his stage career at age 7. His theatre credits are legion, including Edelstein’s 2011 “Timon of Athens” at the Public Theatre. Underwood recently starred in the Broadway production of Tennessee Williams’ “A Streetcar Named Desire.”

The two, former neighbors in Hollywood, admire each other tremendously, and in their first stage appearance together are exceptionally well matched, bringing in one of the most articulate and well-spoken productions of “Othello” ever seen. Through July 27 at the outdoor Lowell Davies Festival Theatre. www.theoldglobe.com. (619) 23-GLOBE.

On the Fringe

The second annual San Diego Fringe Festival – more than 80 shows for $10 a pop – is under way through July 13 at numerous locations, most concentrated in the downtown area. This year, producers have added the word “International” to the event title.

At the Spreckels Theatre on July 3, I saw “Nothing with Nobody,” which comes from Italy’s Vucciria Teatro and is performed in Italian with English dialogue projections. The dramatic work (some nudity) concerns the abiding love between cousins, played by the voluptuous author Joele Anastasi and Enrico Sortini.

Sortini’s character is gay and, presumably in a time when nothing can be done about it, is infected with AIDS by a dance teacher (Federica Carruba Toscano). This is unrelenting tragedy, exceptionally intense and moving and a keen insight into the culture that brought us grand opera.

When they say “on the stage of the Spreckels Theatre,” they mean it. All attractions so designated are played on the stage, with the audience entering off First Avenue and seated on the stage. If you get there early, you can snag one of the padded chairs. But nothing in the Fringe lasts more than an hour, so your rear end won’t suffer too much.

Comedy, magic, dance, Burlesque, clowning: Pick what appeals to you by grabbing a Fringe program at Visual Fringe, 923 First Ave., or visit the web site at www.sdfringe.org

Coming soon

La Jolla Music Society's SummerFest 2014 kicks off with a free concert at 7 p.m. July 30 at Scripps Park, La Jolla Cove. SummerFest runs through Aug. 22; the events are principally at MCASD Sherwood Auditorium. Go to www.ljms.org or phone (858) 459-3728.

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