Classical theater needn't be tedious, as Golden West College reminds us each season. A thundering tragedy such as "Medea" or "Oedipus Rex" can project as much immediacy as the latest realistic drama, and both have done so in the past.
A fine case in point is Shakespeare's "Othello," now holding forth triumphantly on the Golden West stage. This tale of jealousy, revenge and senseless murder is perhaps the Bard's most accessible tragedy, stirring emotions most familiar to the human heart.
"Othello" focuses less on the Moorish general who "loved not wisely, but too well" than on his embittered ensign, Iago, who plots his friend's downfall after being passed over for promotion. These are two of Shakespeare's most compelling characters, and the Golden West production, superbly directed by Tom Amen, illuminates them in richly hued detail.
In the title role, Eric Davis projects a ramrod-straight conqueror, powerful and articulate both in love and war. But as the "green-eyed monster" of jealousy begins eating away at his psyche, carefully engineered by Iago, Davis' Othello is consumed with wrathful uncertainty in an impressive portrayal.
The villainous Iago, perhaps Shakespeare's most deviously complex character, is given a tremendous interpretation by Lawrence Hemingway, one of Golden West's strongest actors. Hemingway delves brilliantly into Iago's seething sense of wrongful treatment to exact a horrific revenge, all the while sharing his nefarious scheme, layer by layer, with the audience.
As Desdemona, Othello's bride whose fealty comes under question in Iago's plot, Amber Luallen glistens with youthful naivete, wanly protesting her cruel treatment. Michelle Terrill is splendid as Emilia, Desdemona's companion and Iago's wife, reaching her apex near the play's end in a chilling denouncement.
Supporting roles are well interpreted, particularly Blake Coomb's crotchety Brabantio, Desdemona's father, simmering with rage over his daughter's choice. Alec Malczynski is a strong Cassio, Othello's lieutenant also undone by Iago, while Tony Torrico excels as the ferret-like Roderigo, recruited for Iago's dirty work because of his lust for Desdemona.
Walter Huntoon's imposing setting, Robert Mumm's eerie lighting plot and Susan Thomas Babb's fine costume choices all heighten the show's atmospheric effect. And sound designer David Mickey contributes a superior musical score to bridge the scenes with power and authority.
Few Shakespearean plays entice their audiences with the sinister appeal of "Othello," and Golden West College illuminates this all-too-human tragedy in a powerful and involving production.
TOM TITUS reviews local theater for the Independent.
If You Go
Where: Golden West College Mainstage Theater, 15744 Goldenwest St., Huntington Beach
When: Closing performances at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday
Cost: $10 to $12
Information: (714) 895-8150