It may not seem modest of Ted Lange both to be directing Inner City Cultural Center’s “Othello” and to be starring in it. But this isn’t a vanity production. It’s an honest attempt to tell Shakespeare’s story with these particular actors.
Not all of them are right for their roles, and not all of them are comfortable with Shakespeare’s language. But they deal with the language, rather than taking cover under some flashy visual concept--the approach in the Ensemble Studio Theatre’s recent, disastrous “Romeo and Juliet.” And the story gets told.
Lange is perfectly at home with Shakespeare’s language, not just the words, but the music. He hits some ringing notes in the big scenes. But, not being a mountain of a man, he doesn’t try to be an operatic Othello. He’s a Hotspur--boyish, generous, volatile.
This Othello stands a head shorter than his Iago (Hawthorne James). The image is surprisingly effective: Iago as Lord Protector. Unfortunately, we can’t tell what this Iago is thinking until James announces it. Iago is supposed to be a guileful man masquerading as a plain one. The result here is vice versa.
Othello and Iago are both black, an effective way of strengthening Othello’s faith that Iago is in his corner. Desdemona (Mary Otis) is white and looks as if she has gone to a very good school, where she played sports. Again, the casting is apt, although the voice is breathy--much less focused than Dawn Comer’s as her attendant, Emilia.
The story unfolds rather cautiously. Lange wants everybody to take his time and make the meaning clear, rather than to be hurried and blurred. That leads to flatness, and also to a sense that every character is getting his due. Domenick Allen’s Cassio, Stuart Rogers’ Roderigo and Marina Palmier’s Bianca all have stories to tell, the latter quite an amusing one.
The final bedroom scene is less ritualistic than usual. The Willow Song is a quiet blues, and there’s something very touching about the way Stella Battle steps out to sing it, perhaps from Desdemona’s imagination.
And it’s absolutely in keeping with Otis’ sensible view of Desdemona that she should make a move to get away when she sees what Othello has in mind to do. This production won’t linger in the mind overall, but some of the little moments will.
Plays Thursdays-Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 3 p.m. Tickets $15. 1308 S. New Hampshire Ave. (213) 387-1161. ‘OTHELLO’
Shakespeare’s tragedy, at the Inner City Cultural Center. Producer Scott Rogers. Director Ted Lange. Choreography Ka-Ron Brown. Set and lights Joanne McMaster. Fight master Christopher Uilla . Sound design Rafael Robledo. Costumes Juanita Murph. Production stage manager Scott Harrison. Stage manager Keneen Brown. Props Terrie Liquori. With John Serembe, David Kozubei, Benjamin Schick, Ted Lange, Domenick Allen, Hawthorne James, Stuart Rogers, Nelson Handel, Mary Otis, Dawn Comer, Marina Palmier, Roosevelt Flenoury, Christa Marcione, Stella Battle, Scott Robert Douglas, Jeffery Anderson- Gunter and Howard Leslie.