Those who know the Q Brothers from their hip-hop adaptations of Shakespeare’s comedies—The Bomb-itty of Errors and Funk It Up About Nothin’—may wonder what the bros would do when approaching a tragic work like Othello. For the most part, GQ and JQ find the funny. The four cast members, dressed in mechanics’ jumpsuits that they augment with additional costume pieces to take on multiple characters, address our potential unease in a prologue: “I know what you’re thinkin’ / ‘Hold on just a minute / That’s a tragedy’ / Yep / But there’s a comedy in it.”
The Qs and their co-conspirators, Postell Pringle and Jackson Doran (all ably backed by DJ Clayton Stamper), translate the Moor’s tale to the modern music industry. Othello (Pringle) is a self-made superstar MC, Desdemona the ethereal voice that provides the hooks for his choruses. Cassio (Doran) is the pretty-boy crew member Othello wants to groom into a star, much to the chagrin of Iago (GQ), who sees himself as the superior rapper.
Though compressed and refreshed, both story and wordplay find rich parallels with the original text. The initially questionable decision to play Emilia and Bianca in broad drag pays off when Doran’s doormat of an Emilia turns her fourth-act protofeminist monologue into a hilarious, Blu Cantrell–style R&B revenge ditty. Similarly, the choice to keep Desdemona heard but not seen yields chilling returns in a murder scene that silences the beats—including our hearts’.