The Hippo


Nov 21, 2019








Amy Agostino, Rachael Longo and Carey Cahoon in theatre KAPOW’s production of Desdemona: a Play about a Handkerchief by Paula Vogel. Photo by Matthew Lomanno.

Theatre KAPOW season finale

Where: Derry Opera House, 29 W. Broadway, Derry
When: Friday, May 9, at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, May 10, at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, May 11, at 2 p.m.
Tickets: $20

Fully awake
theatre KAPOW’s season finale

By Kelly Sennott

Wake up!

Theatre KAPOW will attempt to rouse audiences one last time during its season finale at the Derry Opera House this weekend.
On the agenda are two one-act pieces by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwrights. The first is Desdemona: A Play About a Handkerchief by Paula Vogel. The other is The Zoo Story by Edward Albee. Vogel’s script contains an all-female cast; Albee’s, an all-male.
The combination of works were chosen because of how well their stories fit with the company’s theme for the 2013-2014 season, “awake.” 
Desdemona: A Play About a Handkerchief explores women’s awakening. It’s Paula Vogel’s take on what happens to Shakespeare’s female characters during Othello, and it concerns three very different women: Desdemona, the woman with whom Othello eloped; Emilia, her servant and the wife of Iago; and Bianca, the town harlot.
“It’s very much about women’s awakening. You have three different women: one is a prostitute, one is a servant, one is in the upper class. They all think they have certain freedoms and limitations, but over the course of the play, they realize they’re all kind of the same. … It’s the realization of their plight,” Desdemona director Wanda Strukus said. 
Knowing Othello well will help in understanding the play, but if you haven’t seen or read it, theatre KAPOW will fill in the blanks. Plus, the characters here play such small roles in Shakespeare’s work that they’re almost entirely of Vogel’s creation. The scenes are very short — some contain just six lines of dialogue, some none at all — but Vogel made up for the scenes’ duration in their sheer quantity. There are nearly 30 scenes within Desdemona, which gives the play an intense, cinematic quality.
“The challenge of Desdemona, which has 30 scenes, is keeping up with the energy and the power struggle going on among women,” the company’s other co-founder, Carey Cahoon, said in an email. 
Strukus says it’s like being in a pressure cooker. She’s new to theatre KAPOW’s regular season and teaches at Clark University in Worcester, Mass.
“[The women in Othello] are not as complex as some of his other female characters. Paula Vogel has remedied that and really fleshed them out to make them more complex,” Strukus said. “This is her world and her own take, and these are perspectives Shakespeare could have never had. She’s interested in the different classes of these women, and how this small women’s world is compared to the men’s, how they have to fight for every little scrap of power.”
In Desdemona’s frantic search to find her infamous missing linen, audiences get a glimpse of what’s really going on behind closed doors.
Theatre KAPOW often performs twists to classic stories. Their most recent was Penelope, produced the first weekend in March, which offered another perspective of The Odyssey.
Matt Cahoon is directing The Zoo Story, which takes the stage just after Desdemona. Cahoon had read the play as part of a dramatic literature course at Saint Anselm College 17 years ago. He was 20 and had a different understanding of it then.
“I think a lot more of it now than I did then. I think there’s some evidence of maturity there on my part, but I think that says something of the quality of the script, too,” Matt Cahoon said.
The Zoo Story is a dark play that involves two characters. Peter is a middle-class publishing executive with a family. Jerry is an isolated man, desperate to have a meaningful conversation. They meet on a park bench in Central Park in New York City, and while the play is short, it’s dramatic and tragic, ending with a “sweeping curveball,” said actor Peter Josephson, who plays Peter. 
“Unlike Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, which is his [Albee’s] best-known play, there’s a sense of intimacy in this one,” Josephson said. “I expect that when the audience leaves the theater, there’s going to be a lot of conversation.”
Audiences may recognize Albee’s work from The American Dream, which theatre KAPOW performed as part of a play reading at the Currier in January.
“This play, perhaps more than any of the others we’ve put on this year, is asking us to pay attention, not only to the world around us, but to the people in the world around us,” Matt Cahoon said.
As seen in the May 8th issue of the Hippo.

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