Fine performances give Othello' life

Fullerton College Hornet  - Robert Stapleton - Friday, October 12th, 1990
Attention!-Othello (Cress Williams) salutes lago (Paul Hagerty), Cassio (Karl Schott) and the General (Bradley A. Whitfield)

The Fullerton College Theatre Department's production of "Othello," the classic Shakespeare tragedy involving deception,jealousy and revenge, takes the form of a modem psychological drama in a delightfully intense and satisfying rendition of the tragedy.

Director Tom Blank's version is like the original in that most of the action takes place in Cyprus, but the backdrop has become the Middle East conflict as Cyprus is just a stones throw from Iraq. And by interweaving media blurbs with up to date costumes and sound effects the400 year old Elizabethan drama becomes more accessible to today's audience.

In an attempt to blur the time frame of the play and still stay true to it roots the set is timeless, a surreal mutation of Stonehenge that serves as a backdrop for lago's wickedness and Othello's horrid confusion. While the story is set in a series of flashbacks with Iago(Paul Hagerty) recanting the details from what seems to be a Turkish boxlike-jail cell.

As the action begins we learn of the U.S. General Othello(Cress Williams) having appointed Cassio (Karl Schott) as his assistant, angering the spiteful Iago, and we see Desdemona (Saadia Billman) professing her unrequited love for new husband Othello.

This brings together Iago, the barracks drug-pusher, and Roderigo(Jeff Weeks), drug-abuser and spurned suitor of Desdemona, to make Othello's life a hell filled with anger and envy.

Paul Hagerty, as Iago, masterfully weaves a web of deception through his oh-so-subtle designs which are highlighted by Hagerty's cheshire grin, perhaps the greatest prop of all.

As Othello comes to think of the possibility of Desdemona's infidelity, her simple purity doesn't allow suspicion of her own motives, thus heightening the impact on her husband This is where Cress Williams' portrayal of Othello begins to haunt the stage. Williams grows with intensity amid a cacophony of trusted lies as he tries to lay rest to the civil war in his heart.

Unfortunately.Williams' fine acting job overshadows the lasciviously dull on-stage chemistry between Othello and Desdemona, as played by Billman.

Although both performances are true to their roles when apart, everything seems awkward when they're brought together as neither knows how to play off the other.

Karl Schott's performance as Cassio, the suspected adulterer of Desdemona, is as humble and benevolent as the role he plays, which serves as a fine companion piece to the up charged portrayals of Othello and Iago.

Director Tom Blank's modernization of Othello was surely not meant for theater purists but it has alot to offer in terms of comprehension for today's younger audience..And through the spirit of some superb acting moments we can get just as close to Shakespeare's original intent of displaying the human condition gone bad as in any traditional version of the classic tragedy.