Watching “The Cause, My Soul,” a world-premiere visiting production at the Odyssey, can be an exasperating experience — not because the play is bad or even middling, but because it so narrowly misses the mark of excellence.
The playwright, Ted Lange (yes, that Ted Lange, who played bartender Isaac on “The Love Boat”), has written a prequel to “Othello” — an audacious enterprise in and of itself, and an undeniably clever one. Yet Lange, who also directs, is occasionally guilty of excess that places his work on the precipice of parody.
Still, those tin-eared bits are balanced by some wonderfully intelligent passages to which Lange’s excellent actors, including Keena Ferguson, Paul Messinger, Steve Ducey, Gordon Goodman and Bruce Cervi, do full credit. The design elements, particularly Mylette Nora’s sumptuous costumes, are splendid — although the heavy-handed use of Beethoven’s Fifth has got to go. Now, all Lange needs is a thick blue pencil for another draft of his potentially fine play.
“The Cause, My Soul,” Odyssey Theatre Ensemble, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. 8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays. Ends May 1. $25. (310) 477-2055 Ext. 2, www.odysseytheatre.com. Running time: 2 hours, 20 minutes.