Desdemona: A Play About a Handkerchief, Experimental Theatre Chicago, at National Pastime Theater. Classical burlesque mandates a vaudevillian prelude of songs and patter, followed by a longer spoof of some popular entertainment performed by scantily clad women. Experimental Theatre chose this genre for its staging of Paula Vogel’s behind-the-scenes peek at the world of Othello–and reaps unexpected benefits from a script that seems to have been written during a particularly acute spell of PMS.
We’re first greeted by a bevy of 1920s flappers and songs by Helene Alter-Dyche and Shannon Latimer that replicate the delightful double entendre lyrics of the period. Then a mournful “Othello Song” apprises us of that play’s scenario, after which we’re confronted by a Noel Coward-style drawing-room comedy featuring Desdemona, an adulterous society wife; Emilia, her ambitious maid; and Bianca, her cheerful trollop chum.
Under Jaclyn Biskup’s astute direction, the ensemble renders the humor risque but never crude. And they’re so engaging we can’t help regretting their characters’ sorry fates.