Theatre Review: California Shakespeare's Othello

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(Sacramento, Ca)
Sunday, June 12, 2005

Very often, actors who play Othello have a touch of grey, implying a degree of experience, nobility and wisdom. But California Shakespeare’s modern dress production gives us a different – yet equally interesting – interpretation. Actor Billy Eugene Jones moves like a commander, but he’s young and vigorous. And his Othello begins the play head over heels in love with his new wife Desdemona. I mean, they can barely keep their hands off each other. But very soon, hot passion gives way to jealousy, rage, and sputtering epileptic fits.

In addition to a strong Othello, this production features a Desdemona who stands her ground, and a slow-speaking, jerky Iago, outwardly faithful but totally devious and deranged on the inside, who derives a sick thrill as he destroys Othello’s marriage and career. And keep your eye on Catherine Castellanos as Iago’s wife Emilia – she’s volcanic and powerful in the final scenes, in a role that often slips into the background. This not a big production – there are only 11 actors in cast – but you’ll recall the tragic conclusion for many days after you see it. California Shakespeare’s “Othello” continues in Orinda through July 2nd.