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Theater review: Shakespeare’s tragic Othello set to a hip-hop beat

Othello: The Remix
Photograph: Carol Rosegg

 

 

 

Who knew Othello could be so funny? The Q Brothers have transformed the bloody tragedy into a rip-roaring, rapped one-act rich with dizzying rhymes. Lest anyone think these B-boys are riding on Hamilton’s red coattails, writers-directors-stars-siblings GQ and JQ pioneered hip-hop theater back in 1999 with their uproarious The Bomb-itty of Errors, inspired by Shakespeare’s similarly titled romp. Othello: The Remix, commissioned by Shakespeare’s Globe, is their first stab at a non-comedy, yet you wouldn’t know it from all the laughs and jokey references to Jay Z, D&D and Game of Thrones.

The narrative is reset in the music industry, with MC Othello (Postell Pringle) sparking jealousy and a murderous plan in his presumed pal Iago (GQ) by mentoring wannabe Cassio (a broad Jackson Doran) and marrying diva Desdemona (represented by a disembodied voice). Joined by JQ, the quartet plays all the characters, tackling quick changes as deftly as tongue-twisting text against DJ Supernova’s slick beats. Yet only Pringle attempts to find the gravitas in the tale and, bizarrely, racial strife is practically ignored. The show is clever and exhilarating, but also a missed opportunity—as if the creators were looking at the green-eyed monster through rose-colored glasses.

Westside Theatre (Off Broadway). Written, composed and directed by GQ and JQ. With ensemble cast. Running time: 1hr 20mins. No intermission. Click here for full ticket and venue information.

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