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MOOR BETTER BLUES IN THIS `OTHELLO'.

Byline: -- Evan Henerson

Look into that broad, putty-like face and you see -- what? -- a bit of a jester, a guy with a leering mug, a clown's fearlessness. He's no buffoon on the order of red-haired and thoroughly goony Roderigo, but an incarnation of utter evil? This guy? Get outta town!

Our actor's name is Karl Kenzler and, in Jesse Berger's steady production of ``Othello,'' his rendition of the spurned ancient, ``honest, honest Iago'' is the trump card. A rogue can indeed -- to borrow from another Shakespeare play -- smile, and smile, and be a villain. Kenzler's giddiness at his own ability to destroy the noble Moor of Venice is masking something even more sinister.

It's not hatred, exactly, of Othello, Cassio (Michael Newcomer) or of himself. Oh, this Iago talks a good game against Othello, but he's not really invested that way. A sheer self-serving randomness, perhaps? More likely a kind of madness.

It will indeed take something rather powerful to artfully torpedo the union of this Othello (Jonathan Peck) and Desdemona (Julie Jesneck). They're clearly a sensual and tactile pair who seem to get their most heated conversations out while rolling around on the floor together.

If Peck's Moor is older in appearance than Jesneck's Desdemona, the performance doesn't push that gap; she's no schoolgirl, and he's no silver-

tongued Lothario. That the characters married during wartime doesn't work in their favor. Neither, needless to say, does Kenzler's Iago.

His poison works gradually. Peck seems to barely be listening when Iago first plants the seed of Desdemona's infidelity with Cassio. But by the end of the scene, Peck is seriously rattled. And Kenzler is in command.

At play's end, once the stage is littered with corpses, Iago -- who has sworn never to speak again -- gets the last word. Chained, condemned to death, he lets out a final, bloodcurdling laugh. And away we go to the exits, realizing we have been conned into playing into the revenge fantasy of a charismatic lunatic.

IF YOU GO

``A Midsummer Night's Dream,'' ``Othello'' and ``Titus Andronicus'' run through Oct. 1 at the Lowell Davies Festival Theatre in San Diego's Balboa Park. Performances are at 8 p.m., nightly except Monday. Ticket prices range from $49 to $59. Box office: (619) 234-5623. Information: www.theoldglobe.org.

Other summer Shakespeare festivals and their productions this season.

California Shakespeare Festival, Orinda. ``The Merchant of Venice'' (through Sept. 3) and ``As You Like It.'' (Sept. 16 to Oct. 15) www.calshakes.com; (510) 548-9666.

Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival. ``Othello'' (through Aug. 19) and ``Twelfth Night.'' (through Aug. 20) www.laketahoeshakespeare.com; (800) 747-4697.

Shakespeare Santa Cruz. ``As You Like It'' and ``King Lear.'' (both through Sept. 3). www.shakespearesantacruz.org; (831) 459-2159.

Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Ashland. ``King John'' and ``The Winter's Tale'' (both through Oct. 29) ``The Merry Wives of Windsor,'' ``The Two Gentlemen of Verona'' (through Oct. 8). www.orshakes.org; (541) 482-4331.

Marin Shakespeare Festival. ``King Lear,'' (through Aug. 20) ``The Comedy of Errors,'' (through Sept. 24). www.marinshakespeare.org; (415) 499-4488.

Shakespeare Orange County, Orange. ``Twelfth Night,'' through Saturday. www1.chapman.edu/shakespeare; (714) 590-1575.

Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, Topanga. ``Twelfth Night,'' (Sept. 4 to 30) and ``Antony and Cleopatra'' (through Sept. 24). www.theatricum.com; (310) 455-2322.

OTHELLO - Three stars

Where: Old Globe Theatre, Balboa Park, San Diego.

When: 8 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, in rotating repertory. Call for specific performance dates.

Tickets: $49 to $59. (619) 234-5623, www.TheOldGlobe.org

In a nutshell: Villainy in full bloom. An interesting take on the devilish Iago.

CAPTION(S):

photo, box

Photo:

Jonathan Peck and Julie Jesneck are Othello and Desdemona, and Karl Kenzler, rear, is Iago in the summer production of Shakespeare's classic tale.

Box:

IF YOU GO (see text)
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Title Annotation:Travel
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Aug 13, 2006
Words:626
Previous Article:IT WOULDN'T BE `TITUS' WITHOUT THE BLOOD.
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