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Othello Review from LA Weekly, March 12-18, 1999

By Martin Hernandez

**Pick of the Week**

From the outset -- as a lone rifle-toting soldier menacingly paces across a dimly lit stage -- to its emotionally charged finale director Scott Rabinowitz delivers an enthralling production of Shakespeare's tragedy of love, race and jealousy. Rabinowitz sets the tale in a U.S. Marine Corps milieu -- a bastion of male dominance -- a choice that reinforces the contradiction between honor and ambition underlying the struggle between the black general Othello (Billy Mayo) and his white ensign Iago (Loren Bass).

Photo: Jerry Neill
This is a superbly crafted work, form the acting to the production design (Aaron Francis' multitiered gray set adds a suitably drab military feel) to the uncredited pulsating punk-rock score. Rabinowitz also finds abundant laughs in the play's ample but rarely mined humor, laced with double-entendre, semper fi machismo and engaging sight gags. But it is Bass' riveting portrayal of Iago that anchors the work. Whether in comic banter with the ill-fated Roderigo (the lanky scene-stealing Joe Jordan) or in bald-faced lies to Othello about his wife Desdemona (an ofttimes bland Amy Raasch), Bass' boyish smile and dulcet voice successfully mask Iago's rotted soul, making for a harrowing performance. Pasadena Shakespeare Company, Plaza Pasadena Mall, Suite 296, corner of Euclid & Green aves.; Fri.-Sat., 8pm.; Sun., 3 pm.: thru April 4. (626) 564-8564.