Othello, still a powerful tragedy

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It has been 400 years since the death of the western world’s indisputably greatest playwright, William Shakespeare and more than that since he penned his timeless and powerful tragedy Othello. Yet joyously it returns to the stage by the Independent Shakespeare Company under the magical direction of Melissa Chalsma.

Those familiar with Othello will recall that is reveals so much of the dark side of humanity from racism to hatred to wild runaway ego to envy and more. But it also puts on display an expression of deep love.

The four principal characters in Othello are Othello, a Moorish general in the Venetian army, Desdemona, Orthello’s devoted wife, Cassio his loyal lieutenant and Iago a wildly conniving and manipulative deeply evil man. In its current production by the Independent Shakespeare Company Othello is portrayed by Evan Lewis Smith who is simply breath taking with his riveting power and focus but utterly lacking any vestige of over acting.

Evan Lewis Smith just is Othello. Kalean Ung is Othello’s wife Desdemona and once again the Independent Shakespeare Company has brought on stage a truly magnificent actress who goes beyond acting the part but rather becomes the character. David Melville has the challenging task of portraying the arch evil character Iago but he discharges his task brilliantly. Sean Pritchett shines as Othello’s loyal lieutenant Cassio and also as the Duke of Venice.

Rare is the theatrical presentation that reaches deep within the minds and hearts of the audience and totally captures them. This presentation somehow miraculously does just that. I say “miraculously” because generating that much power is a severe challenge even in a major venue with abundant assistance from a wide variety of enhancements such as special effects, top of the art lighting and sound and other embellishments that can boost the overall production values.

But this show is performed at the much more modest Crossing Arts + Innovation Complex and yet it still manages to shine brightly. So while typically I will award no more than four stars to more basic production, this offering of Othello truly deserves and thus has received five stars. For this the kudos go to the entire cast and crew, especially to Evan Lewis Smith and maybe even a little nod to William Shakespeare.

Othello is appearing now through May 7th at the Atwater Crossing Arts + Innovation Complex. 3191 Casitas Avenue, Atwater Village [Los Angeles], California. Show times are Thursdays, Friday and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday matinees at 2:00 p.m. Reservations and ticketing available by calling 818-710-6306 or online at: www.iscla.org.

Photo by Grette Cortez