Review of Desdemona: A Play About A Handkerchief

Written By Paula Vogel / Directed By Thom Fogarty

review by Mark DeMaio in October 2011 for Soho Journal Online [This review was not published]

Director Thom Fogarty has a gift for finding reimagined works by hugely talented writers and reimagining them one step further with his own quirky and dramatic twists. This visionary director also has an inherent gift for making the very most with the very least by staging his productions with minimal scenery and maximum storytelling. I believe one of his greatest gifts is being able to corral a gifted cast to carry out his vision.

Desdemona is now the third production of Fogarty’s that I’ve had the pleasure to see and his work is only getting stronger. The first play I saw that Mr. Fogarty directed was MOMENTS AND LEMONS, by Fred Giacinto. Here Fogarty took a two actor piece, involving eight characters, and a set consisting of two chairs and created a world so full, that we, the viewers, felt as though there were eight different people on a stage full of scenery and props. Next up was his production of EURYDICE, by Sarah Ruhl. This production featured a few more props (very few) but because of the staging and acute direction, we were transported from New York City to Hell (some might consider this one in the same) and back so effortlessly that again the black-box theater stage felt as full as any Broadway production and the very same applies to DESDEMONA.

With little more than a table, a clothesline and a basket of continuously folded laundry, nimble direction and stellar acting transports us exactly where the director wants us to be. This Desdemona, (Lulu Fogarty) is a bit of a tart to say the least, and the main character is skillfully brought to life by the gifted Ms.Fogarty who manages to capture a naughty and slightly naive Desdemona, all the while being judged and lectured by her condescending servant Emilia in an inspired performance by Colista K. Turner. These two characters handle most of the stories heavy lifting until two thirds of the way into the show when we are introduced to Desdemona’s friend and temptress Bianca played with (almost) over the top exuberance by Christine Verleny. When these three power-houses are on stage at the same time, one could almost envision Meryl Streep, Bette Davis and Alfre Woodard tearing it up, that’s how good they are together, but it is the confidence in their craft and their generosity as actresses that shines through as they share the stage, as opposed to trying to hold it hostage from one another. I don’t want to give much away here but the lest me say that the last two or three minutes of this show are simply dramatically and artistically breathtaking!!!

As I mentioned earlier, the casting of Thom Fogarty’s productions is a major key to their success both artistically and spiritually. Although most of the major players change from each production, the one constant is oddly enough, Fogarty’s own daughter Lulu Fogarty. This may seem like a Francis Coppola sized case of nepotism on the surface but the fact that Ms. Fogarty is such a massive talent quickly dismisses that notion.

Armed with a BFA from Syracuse University, Lulu Fogarty is a force to be reckoned with. Her dramatic skills are underscored by her ability to carry any production and not chew the scenery. She has a subtle restraint that belies her years, young in age and yet she seems as seasoned an actress as one could find. It’s striking how this unusual paring of father and daughter works on so many levels. It’s obvious that both of these professionals are able to separate familial ties to create their art and yet draw on a comfort, and trust only a bond this tight could enjoy, not an easy balancing act I’m sure, but one that is carried out perfectly. Please by any means necessary see DESDEMONA and if you’re not able to, make sure to keep your eyes open for the next production by Thom Fogarty, and with a little luck perhaps Lulu will be its star. You WILL NOT be disappointed.