The Q Brothers’ Othello: The Remix
by Wickham Boyle
Contributor THE EDGE
Thursday Nov 17, 2016
“Hamilton” has happily released the theater world to recognize the power of modern poetry to tell a story in the rhythms of modern rhyme. The newest entry to this hip-hop pantheon is the “Q Brothers’ Othello: the Remix.” It is brought to us in association with theater wizard John Leguizamo and well worth the 80 minutes of raucous wit and wise re telling of one of Shakespeare’s darkest tragedies.
“Othello” tells the story of a general who falls in thrall with Desdemona and they elope. Her father is not pleased and so to escape some notice, Othello appoints Cassio to a more exalted position, angering his more experienced lieutenant, Iago. Iago then spins elaborate lies to turn Othello against Desdemona, who eventually kills her, leaving the stage littered with, what we now cavalierly call collateral damage.
This remix casts Othello and his posse in the music industry as competing rappers. Think of it as an all sung Shakespearian “Empire.” The intimate Westside Theatre/ Downstairs has been turned by designer Scott Adam Davis into a blaring disco with DJ Supernova spinning and scratching and neon lights flashing. It sets an energetic stage for what is to come and heated up the theater happily as the AC was somehow blasting in November.
The show is created by the Q Brothers, meaning music, words and direction. I don’t know if GQ and JQ are actual brothers, but their ability to coalesce a tale and excite an audience is impressive. Everyone in this cast is not only supremely talented, but they seem as if they are having a blast and we lucky few get to watch and clap and groan at puns and just get happily awe struck.
There is a wonderful harkening back to the original Shakespeare modality even though the words are magically modern. All the women characters — Emilia and Bianca, wives to Iago and Cassio — are played by the men. This is achieved by quickly donning wigs and sort of dickey-like dress fronts. (Huge props to costume designer Christina Leinicke.)
This works not only for comedic enhancement, but allows JQ who tackles the roles of Roderigo, Loco Vito, a record producer, hilariously obsessed with tennis, as well as Bianca, and Jackson Dorian who portrays Cassio and Emilia to show their acting wonderful chops.
Q Brother GQ plays the villain Iago and Brabantio, Desdemona’s father. He can be dark and swiftly becomes a doddering old man with wonderful precision. Desdemona is embodied only as a distant soprano voice floating occasionally though the action. A wise choice as she should not be turned into a caricature.
The lead role of Othello is embodied by Postell Pringle whose outsized character is matched with his prodigious talent. He raps; saunters and sweats bringing every nuance to a man besotted with love and brought down by the green-eyed monster of jealousy.
This work was commissioned jointly for the Globe to Globe Festival by Shakespeare’s Globe, Chicago Shakespeare Theater and premiered in Britain and Chicago before gracing the New York stage. This is the third Shakespeare to be transformed by the Q Brothers and let’s hope many people revel in this work so they can bring us more of the cannon.
The Q Brothers’ Othello: The Remix” enjoys an extended run at Westside Theatre/Downstairs, 407 W. 43 between 9th and 10th Avenue. For tickets or information, call 212-239-6200 or visit Othellotheremix.com.