Streamlined Look at Bard’s ‘Othello’

“Othello” as a one-act? In Open Door TheaterWorks’ production at the Santa Monica Playhouse’s Other Space, Shakespeare’s sprawling tragedy, divested of subplots and trimmed to a mere five characters, comes in at a little over an hour and a half.

Brief is not necessarily better. But successive generations must each take their whack at reinterpreting Shakespeare, and this imaginatively truncated Cliffs Notes version by adapters Daren Rice and Obi Ndefo is surprisingly resonant.

Ndefo’s streamlined staging is as youthfully brash as it is stimulating. But youth does not always serve this production. Beyond a certain rough competence in the title role, youthful Philip Moon lacks crucial majesty as the Moor. On the other hand, Rice renders a brutally effective Iago, whose youthful callowness bespeaks a sociopathic young pup scrapping his way up through the ranks, rather than the ossified villain of so many stage portrayals.

Effective, too, is Inara George’s youthful sensuality as the doomed Desdemona. George, who is currently playing Juliet in an overblown “Romeo and Juliet” at the Theatricum Botanicum, shows just how tautly underplayed she can be, given the right direction. Lara Baird projects a brisk Rosalind Russell wryness as Emilia, while Erik Krisch is a reliable if uninspired Cassio. The portable scrims that largely constitute the set, designed by Rice, Ndefo and Karyl Newman, provide luminous opportunities for the uncredited lighting designer.



* “Othello,” the Other Space at the Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 4th St., Santa Monica. Wednesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m. Ends Aug. 14. $15.50. (310) 394-9779, Ext. 1. Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes.