Director Lisa Wolpe sets Shakespeare's passionate play in 1930s Fascist Italy, illuminating little of its complexity. From the outset, Fran Bennett's title character fails to radiate the wisdom, nobility or charisma that might attract his wife, Desdemona (Nell Geisslinger) — many decades his junior — or the soldiers under his command who profess to admire him. When events turn dark, this Othello responds querulously rather than with noble rage. Wolpe's Iago is a cerebral fellow whose hatred of the Moor — the play's driving force — shows up in his face but doesn't permeate his being. Kimberleigh Aarn's generic Cassio lacks the charm that might threaten other men, and so spur the gullible Othello to a jealous rage. And as Iago's wife and Desdemona's lady in waiting, Katrinka Wolfson despoils a juicy cameo by hyperbolizing her indignation at Desdemona's murder, rather than building a viable and moving relationship with her mistress (and with Iago) prior to the event. Only Geisslinger lands on target, as a gracious and ladylike Desdemona who later persuasively pleads for her life. Wolpe makes adept use of the production's technical elements, which include Susan Gratch's set, Jaymi Lee Smith's lighting and Kari Rae Seekins' sound. Together, they furnish an impressive framework for this less-than-compelling drama.
Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Starts: Feb. 23. Continues through March 23, 2008

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