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Grove’s ‘Othello’ fitfully exciting

Maurice Barnfather

Whose play is this? The Moor’s or Iago’s? In Kevin Cochran’s decent,

fitfully exciting revival of “Othello,” at Burbank’s Grove Theater

Center through Saturday, the evening belongs to Joshua Wolf Coleman’s



Like Sir Ian McKellan’s revivals, Cochran sets the play in a

militaristic neo-modern world, perfectly suited to Shakespeare’s

understanding of the peculiar danger of the aftermath of conflict,


when leisured afternoons are filled with malice and mischief.

This military context gives resonance to Coleman’s wonderfully

observed Iago as he becomes the classic noncommissioned officer: a

poker-faced automaton on duty but also a dirty-minded barrack room

sport who dwells obsessively on sex and his own lack of preferment.

What Coleman presents us with is a man corroded by envy of others’

grace and ease, which in an ideal world would find its foil in

Othello’s jealousy. But, although Dante Walker is a perfectly capable


Othello, he lacks seniority and gravitas.

To be sure, you feel Othello’s insecurity springs not only from

race but from the gap in years between himself and Kim Jackson’s

Desdemona. Yet, even as they maul, grope and paw each other so

lasciviously in public, it becomes difficult to accept the sudden

eruption of Othello’s jealousy. This is not helped by Jackson, whose

Desdemona is not the strong, passionate woman defying convention by

marrying the Moor, but a willing moppet, who looks incapable of


evoking overwhelming jealousy in a man.

Cochran’s production may never quite engulf us in over- whelming

passion, but it is alert to sexual politics and is fluently staged in

a sparse set, dominated by a massive bed, where bedposts become

seats, the headboard a wall, and the surface multiple rooms as the

play progresses at a pace that makes light of the 140-minute running