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Regional Reviews: Los Angeles


Also see Kevin's review of Riff Raff

Intrigue, passion, adultery, jealousy, and betrayal fuel the fire behind this play simply called Iago. Ironically enough, this is not William Shakespeare's sequel to Othello. It's more James McLure, the man of Laundry & Bourbon and Lonestar fame. This Caldwell Theatre presentation plans to evoke these certain truths and then some.

Iago had its world premiere at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival. This stop at the Caldwell is only its second production, and founding Artistic Director Michael Hall has chosen four of his dependable players to breathe another life into this newborn child of a play. It helps that Hall has a loyal, trustworthy resident design staff to give Iago the decorum it needs.

Classically trained actor Anthony Roland (Bob Rogerson) and his devoted wife, Vivacity Wilkes (Lisa Bansavage), are performing an over the top period piece. Arriving backstage to congratulate them is rising Australian actor Peter Finney (Neil Stewart). Peter approaches the couple to say he wants to work with them in a production of Othello. He heaps praise over Tony while Vivacity is falling for Finney's charms. They agree to take on the project with Tony playing the beleaguered Moor of Venice and Vivacity playing devoted spouse Desdemona, while Peter would get the role of the envious Second in Command. Add to this party a celebrated British director in the form of Sir Basil Drill (Dennis Creaghan) and let the parlour games begin.

As rehearsals begin for Othello, the group meets in duos and trios in pubs, backstage, and rehearsal halls. Opinions clash and affairs ensue as the group stays together over a span of thirty years. Careers move between film and theatre while the actors parallel their lives with one of the Bard's most important tragedies.

Bob Rogerson plays Tony with such grace and poise that he commands the stage, and not only as Othello. We see his Moor-like tendencies grow while Finney seduces Tony's wife in the process. Rogerson can channel fear, jealousy, and rage into separate but equal entities so deep that we feel his pain and suffering.

Neil Stewart brings a slickness to Peter who, unlike other villains, can be very comical at times. As we see him coo up to Vivacity, Stewart's thought process comes through, focusing only on his goal and never upstaging anyone else. While being selfish like Iago, Stewart also shows a more sympathetic side to Peter at the end.

Dennis Creaghan has the daunting task of being comic relief and peacemaker as Basil, the director. He proves he is up to the task by playing Basil as an old soul who just wants to keep the peace between Tony and Vivacity while schooling Peter on the ways of being humble. Unfortunately, Basil's words fall on deaf ears, but Creaghan is to be given an award for trying.

The weakest link of the play is the character of Vivacity. Instead of being the center of the maelstrom between two egocentric, brooding males, she is more of a caricature, an afterthought, and she never seems to get any points across. It's not the fault of Lisa Bansavage, who plays Vivacity as a woman with needs, to be excited and loved. Bansavage is an accomplished actor who uses Vivacity as much as she is given, so she is never shown as a minor role.

There are twenty-nine locations in Iago; rehearsal halls, bedrooms, pubs. Tim Bennett's scenic design has a backdrop of a stage set while using a treadmill a couple of feet back to change pub scenes into bedroom scenes. A very clever trick. Thomas Salzman's lighting creates a film noir attitude that bodes well for the time periods.

This may not be Shakespeare, but James McLure has created a piece that can be timeless in its own right. The Caldwell Theatre Company should be commended for giving this play another chance; hopefully, someone else will follow suit.

Iago plays through April 4th in Caldwell Theatre Company's space at 7873 N. Federal Highway in Boca Raton. For more information, please call the box office at 561-241-7432 or

Written by James McLure
Directed by Michael Hall

Stage Manager: Jeffry George*

Scenic Design: Tim Bennett
Lighting Design: Thomas Salzman
Costumers: Patricia Burdett and Linda Shorrock
Original Music: M. Anthony Reimer

Cast: Bob Rogerson*, Lisa Bansavage*, Neil Stewart* and Dennis Creaghan* *-denotes members of Actor's Equity Association

See the current theatre season schedule for southern Florida.

-- Kevin Johnson

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