November 7, 2013

Segal Centre presents stage classic 'Othello'

By STEVEN HOWELL Press-Republican

---- — MONTREAL — Textures, colors and shapes abound in a newly adapted take on Shakespeare’s “Othello.”

“Othello,” which is presented Sunday, Nov. 17, through Sunday, Dec. 1, at the Segal Centre for Performing Arts, is a co-production with Scapegoat Carnivale Theatre, a Montreal-based independent theater company. The work is directed by Scapegoat Carnivale’s co-artistic director Alison Darcy, who admits that presenting a stage classic comes with some unique theatrical challenges.

“My first challenge was whether to maintain a classical vision or if I wanted to update it with some kind of interpretation,” Darcy said. “But not one beyond the text, necessarily.”

Darcy’s decision was to stick to the basics — albeit a more streamlined version. This “Othello” clocks in at about two hours and 20 minutes. Considered one of Shakespeare’s longest works, the play typically takes more than three hours to perform.

Handling the re-worked dramaturgy is Joseph Shragge, Scapegoat Carnivale’s co-artistic director.

“He did cut about one-third of the play,” Darcy said. “He did a very intelligent but thought-provoking, smart edit.”

Darcy promises no haphazard cuts.

“It still follows all of the original rhythms,” Darcy said. “So I’m not going for the full-on classic. But I didn’t want any men in tights.”

One main reason for the eliminated tights: her father is cast in the play. 

“Yeah, I didn’t want to see him in tights,” Darcy quipped.

Darcy’s dad is playwright Maurice Podbrey from South Africa, who produced last year’s Segal production of “Waiting for the Barbarians.” Podbrey is also the original artistic director of Montreal’s Centaur Theatre.

“He left South Africa but returned after apartheid,” Darcy said. “It was important for him to be part of the new South Africa.”

That said, Darcy does everything she can to occasionally lure him back to Montreal.

“He is a fantastic actor,” she said. “And he turns 80 later this year, so it will be nice to see him.”

Podbrey is cast as Brabantio and Gallant.

The Scapegoat Carnivale family plays an equally big role in Darcy’s life. The small production company was founded in 2006 by Shragge, Darcy and actor/stage manager Melanie St. Jacques followed one year later by actor Andreas Apergis and composer/musical director David Oppenheim. All five are hard at work on the “Othello” production, and Darcy says her colleagues know her very well — and vice versa.

“Yes, need that solid team with you,” Darcy said. 

In addition to the Segal team, which is handling box office, marketing, theater space and backstage crew, Darcy feels the proper alignment of the theatrical stars.

“It just allows me as a director to be as free as I possibly can.”

Along with the text adaptation, Darcy chose a more modern minimal approach.

“It’s more sparse. There’s an open feel to it,” Darcy said. “There’s not much stage décor, but there are colors and textures and shapes.”

A downstage slope, parallel benches and a horizontal plane create “dynamic shapes” onstage, Darcy said.

“On the slope, there’s a wonderful texture reminiscent of the water in Venice,” Darcy said.

The minimal stage lets Darcy create “water” on one side, a castle setting on another, a mountain or a room with steps when needed.

“But there’s an element of a cracked, broken-down world which speaks to the mental state of Othello throughout the play.”

Blacks and coppers give a balance of rigidity against the slopes. Costumes employ a “classical chic.”

Overall, the production values fit the script pretty well, Darcy said.

“It has a nice, subtle bliss to it.”

Steven Howell is the author of Montreal Essential Guide, a Sutro Media iPhone travel app available at

IF YOU GO WHAT: "Othello. WHEN: Presented Sunday, Nov. 17, through Sunday, Dec. 1. WHERE: The Segal Centre for Performing Arts is at 5170 Chemin Cote St. Catherine, Montreal. Take Autoroute 15 North (I-87 after the border), and continue over the Champlain Bridge. Take exit 66, Cote St. Luc/Queen Mary, and continue on the Decarie Expressway service road for about five minutes. Turn right on Chemin Cote Ste. Catherine. The Segal Centre is two blocks on the right. ADMISSION: Adult tickets cost $39. Discounts are available for students and seniors. CONTACT: Call (514) 739-7944, or visit or