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Iago seizes the play at Noise Within

Geoff Elliott, as the villain, outshines the other leads in an attractive 'Othello.'

October 19, 2005|Lynne Heffley | Times Staff Writer

What's right with A Noise Within's "Othello" is what's wrong with this handsome but flawed production of Shakespeare's corrosive tragedy: Geoff Elliott's deliciously loathsome Iago.

Closely bearded, lean and mean in black leather, Elliott, who co-directs with Julia Rodriguez-Elliott, is an Iago so assured of his dominance over the pawns in his own psychopathic drama that when he's not dripping venom, he's sputtering with barely contained, explosive glee.

It's a blast to watch. But such pleasurably heated ferocity points out the surprising lack of fire elsewhere among the Elliotts' highly credentialed cast, most regrettably in Harold Surratt's remote Othello.

Surratt, though striking in his leathers and robes, simply never appears fully engaged. Rather than a larger-than-life warrior-general doomed by treachery and grand passions that outrun reason, here instead is a victim more hapless than tragic, who might just as well be one of the gulled crowd.

And, with no discernible chemistry between Surratt and Julia Watt's sweetly naive and fragile Desdemona, this Othello's shattering descent into murderous madness is fitful with restraint, bumping along to the anticlimactic murder scene in which Watt's jerking bare leg comes perilously close to camp.

As Iago's long-suffering wife, Jill Hill fares better, claiming some equal ground in her give-and-take with Elliott, who uses gestures of physical intimidation to disturbing effect. Confusing her husband's brutality for passion, Hill's Emilia embodies both sensuality and the classic denial of a domestic abuse victim -- Hill's bruised face is an effective, unspoken touch -- until her moment of horrified enlightenment.

As the production founders in the shallows, its framing is visually pleasing, solid and sure. Composer Laura Karpman pierces the action with pensive strings and disturbing dissonance. Costume designer Jennifer Brawn Gittings supplies the actors' swirl of robes and gowns, sexy leathers and boots, and Peter Gottlieb's lights wash Michael C. Smith's spare, stone-walled, gauzy-curtained set with sun and drape it in shadows.



Where: A Noise Within, 234 S. Brand Blvd., Glendale

When: Resumes 2 and 7 p.m. Nov. 6; 8 p.m. Nov. 9-10; 8 p.m. Nov. 18; 2 and 8 p.m. Nov. 19; 2 and 7 p.m. Dec. 4

Ends: Dec. 4

Price: $32 and $36

Contact: (818) 240-0910, Ext. 1

Running time: 2 hours, 40 minutes

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