Josh Hartnett not included

Abbie Vansickle

The clash of swords resonates from Shanley Pavilion. Shouts ring out as the fighting intensifies. Inside, several young men point their weapons, their tempers flaring after a night of carousing.

No, it’s not a group of carefree Northwestern students taking a break from their studies. It’s a scene from Lovers and Madmen’s “Othello,” which opens tonight.

The student theater company’s production proves once again that “Othello” is a story for all ages. With jealousy, racial tension, betrayal and fiery passion, the Shakespearean masterpiece rings true to audiences centuries after it was first performed.

This tragedy has become a fixture of modern culture, sparking several movie adaptations, including the 1965 film starring Lawrence Olivier and the 2001 film “O,” featuring Julia Stiles, Mekhi Phifer and Martin Sheen.

The play tells the story of a dark-skinned Moor, Othello, who marries Desdemona, the beautiful daughter of a Venetian leader. The central conflict arises when one of Othello’s friends, Iago, masterminds a plan to break up of the marriage.

Like “O,” which switched the setting of the story from 16th-century Venice to a modern prep school, the Lovers and Madmen version will move the show from its original setting, said the show’s director Matt Williams, a Weinberg senior.

To make the show more relevant to today’s audience, Williams decided to set the show three centuries later, in Italy at the outbreak of World War I. He chose the World War I era because it shows another time in history when the Ottoman Empire and the Italians faced each other on the battlefield.

Although elaborate women’s gowns, wigs and the impressive sword fights are seen throughout the show, Williams said he hopes the audience will be stunned by the emotional development of the characters.

“This play is all about changes,” he said. “The audience watches as Othello changes from a kind person to someone his own wife doesn’t recognize; and Iago, of course, is the embodiment of change.”

Williams has always been fascinated with Shakespeare’s ability to convey human emotion, he said, and in “Othello” he found the bard at his best.

“It’s my absolute favorite play, with my absolute favorite scene,” he said. “Act three, scene three is quite simply the best scene ever written … In one scene Othello goes from a noble, upstanding husband to a man who is ready to kill his wife. I think ‘Othello’ is an even better play than ‘Hamlet.'”

Speech junior Julian Thomas, who plays Othello, said the role is a dream for any actor. He said he watched his brother perform the part a few years ago and is fortunate to get the chance to try it himself.

“It’s like – well, I like Shakespeare, of course – but this is the part, the part,” he said, smiling broadly.

To find his character’s unique rhythm, Thomas said he recited his monologues to the beat of blues music to heighten the contrast between Othello’s speech patterns and the other characters’.

Anthony Nelson, a Speech junior who plays the role of Iago, echoed Thomas’ enthusiasm for the production.

“What do I like best about this? Well, I get to play one of the five greatest parts ever written for Western theater and that’s exciting,” Nelson said.

Nelson said he hopes the production will live up to the audience’s expectations.

“I want (the audience) to come away with a sense that we did this justice,” he said. “I mean, this is the best play ever written by the greatest playwright who ever wrote. It’s a lot to live up to.” nyou