Othello, Journeymen, at Holy Covenant United Methodist Church. Many American theater companies are reluctant to attempt Othello because of its perceived race and gender overtones. True, the hero is African, and he does murder the wife he suspects of infidelity. But his error is not that he's jealous nor that he fears the scorn of his superiors--it's that he assumes everyone to be as honest as himself, thus becoming himself vulnerable to deception. If anyone's guilty of jealousy, it's Iago, who undertakes a wholesale vengeance when he's passed over for promotion.
So it goes in Journeymen director Frank Pullen's refreshingly straightforward interpretation, performed unself-consciously by its young actors despite the play's "shocking" content. Michael Rushton's live guitar accompaniment intensifies the emotional subtext (though his punk-clown costume strikes a jarring visual note whenever he participates in the action). James Vincent Meredith plays the Moor as a man of dignity and intelligence, traits he retains even when he gives way to fury, and James Foster gives Iago a sociopathic streak, sharing his schemes with us like a smirking schoolboy boasting of a particularly sadistic prank.
The other players likewise reject sensationalism to deliver performances of riveting immediacy--especially Monica Payne as a fearlessly candid Emilia and Anthony Wills Jr., whose Cassio reflects the usual innocence of soldiers stationed overseas.