C. Bernard Jackson's "Iago," in LATC's Theatre 3, gives a radically revisionistic slant to Shakespeare's "Othello."
A revival of the 1979 Inner City Cultural Center production, "Iago" could best be described as a "What If?" play. What if Iago were not a scheming dastard after all, but a much-maligned victim of racism and internecine politics?
In Jackson's version, Iago (J.D. Hall) is himself a Moor, a towering hero intent on saving his old friend Othello from the evil machinations of Cassio (Darrell Kunitomi). Iago's fervent apologist is his wife, Emilia (Gloria Calomee), an exasperated ghost who pours out her tale into the ear of the Author (Kunitomi), hoping at last to set the record straight. But first, the pompously academic Author must engage in a role-playing "game," a mutant reprise of Shakespeare's drama that dangerously blurs the borders of reality for the hapless scholar.
Jackson, who also directs, uses masks to effectively illustrate the story's dramatic arc from commedia to tragedy while conveniently conveying the ever-shifting races, identities and genders of the various characters. Calomee, Hall and Kunitomi alternately essay the role of Othello. Jennifer Fujii plays Desdemona with a touch of minx.
This otherwise evocative play suffers when the thematic question shifts from "What If?" to "What Is?"--in this case, the time-worn query "What is reality?" The play's eleventh-hour shift from a tragicomic parody into the philosophic ozone is jarring. However, despite its flaws, this sprawling and ambitious effort proves a worthy birthday package for the Bard.
* "Iago": Tonight at 8; Saturday, 2 and 8 p.m.; Wednesday-April 19, 8 p.m.; April 20, 2 and 8 p.m.