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By Jennie Webb
Backstage West
August 8, 2007

Warning for all Troubadour Theater Company fans: This is trampoline-free Troubie. Yes, this slightly schizophrenic exercise in rock-infused Shakespeare, is -- gasp! -- remarkably grounded. And pretty darn impressive.

Not surprisingly, OthE.L.O. starts out high on the goofball meter. We meet the Moor (Eric Anderson, a lovely hunk of menacing) and his uptown bride, Desdemona (Erin Matthews, suitably angelic in every way), and are convinced that they are meant for each other when they break out into Electric Light Orchestra's "Do Ya (do ya want my love?)" Oh, yeah, daddy: No rape or Ottoman Empire misbehavior here. That all comes later, when the "Strange Magic" kicks in. So, right off the bat, pop-culture references, inspired battles, and fantabulous singing and cavorting are all in the mix; throw in belly dancing, and we're in good shape. We might, however, be better served by songs that didn't all sound the same -- apologies to E.L.O fans out there; anyone? Joseph Leo Bwarie's natty Rodrigo is appropriately over the top; Guilford Adams is delightful as the easily duped Cassio; and Matthew Morgan, Breanna Pine, Jen Seifert, and Lorin Shapiro couldn't be more fun in their various roles. Yet it's director Matt Walker's truly evil Iago that rather masterfully sets the show's tone, which soon becomes almost stark, by Troubie standards. Stripped down, Walker, Anderson, Matthews, and company most definitely have the chops to do Shakespeare right and to dig into Othello's serious-ack!-issues with powerful results. We still get damn fine costumes (Sharon McGunigle) and the occasional off-the-cuff remark, and, hey, since when does cold-blooded murder rule out a happy ending? Especially if it includes a wicked drum solo.

Presented by the Troubadour Theater Company at the Falcon Theatre, 4252 Riverside Dr., Burbank. Repertory schedule. Aug. 4-26. (818) 955-8101.

©2007 Guilford Adams. All rights reserved.