Ted Lange, formerly with the crew of "The Love Boat," overreaches himself as the director and star of "Othello." Like a bantamweight in a heavyweight fight or a tenor singing the villain's tune, the sitcom bartender missteps as Shakespeare's mightily troubled Moor.
Perhaps vanity, not jealousy, is this production's driving force, not that Lange gives a performance that is showy. In fact, he avoids the flamboyance that Laurence Olivier and Orson Welles brought to the part. This Othello is a meek sort, a tragic figure on the order of Gary Hart.
Desdemona, whom Othello calls "sweetie," might be a hostess on a TV morning show as played by young Mary Otis. The cast, for the most part either flat or shrewish, does offer a forceful performance from Hawthorne James as the conniving Iago.
Lange's interpretation of the story is primarily that of a pair of love-doves gone to seed. He's added a misty honeymoon and wedding scenes, featuring a pas de deux known as "Othello and Desdemona's Passion." So when Iago does succeed in poisoning the Moor's mind against Desdemona, the great tragedy becomes soggy melodrama.
Lange, who directed episodes of "Gidget," "Starman" and "Mike Hammer," is doubtless as ill-prepared as he is well-intentioned. Though he has taken a course in Shakespeare at London's Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, maybe a second course is needed.
Othello, playing at the Biograph, is not rated.