Chicago Theatre Review
More of the Moor
The Q Brothers’ Othello: the Remix – Chicago Shakespeare Theatre
One of the many highlights of CST’s Shakespeare 400 Chicago celebration is this remount of the company’s wildly popular, 90-minute hip hop version of “The Tragedy of Othello.” This production is as if Shakespeare’s tragedy, about lives destroyed by jealousy and lies, had merged with the very popular Pulitzer Prize-winning “Hamilton.” The script in itself is genius. It’s unique, clever and impossible to dislike. The familiar story has been updated to be about a group of aspiring rap musicians and the cast size has been reduced to only the most important characters. Desdemona, for instance, one of leading roles in this story, is actually never seen. She appears only as an ethereal voice. The other roles are portrayed by four terrifically talented actor/rappers. The result is a fast-paced musical play that’s, surprisingly, quite funny. The play is laced with dramatic moments, but, because of the skillful script and over-the-top performances by the four talented actors, it’s the humor that prevails.
As with the other Q Brothers productions, such as their recent “Christmas Carol,” the play is written, composed, directed and performed entirely by four extraordinary young men. JQ, who plays the nerdy gaming geek Roderigo, the vivacious Latina spitfire Bianca and a big time music producer named Loco Vito, is also the co-composer and director of this show. He shares this honor with GQ, who also mesmerizes onstage as the villainous Iago and Brabantio. Jackson Doran is hilarious as Cassio, Othello’s innocent rival, and Iago’s wife, Emilia; and Postell Pringle dominates this production in the title role, as the commanding rapper named Othello. Perched high above the cast on scaffolding is Clayton Stamper, who not only serves as the DJ for the show, but is also costumed and wigged, joining the group in every musical number.
CST’s own Rick Boynton serves as the production’s creative producer, while Scott Davis contributes his talents as scenic and costume designer. Melissa Veal provides wigs and makeup for the cast and James Savage makes sure that every lyric and beat of music is balanced and heard through his sound design. Jesse Klug supplies illumination and ambience with his lighting plot, assisted by Greg Hofmann; and stage manager Dennis J. Conners keeps the whole production running smoothly.
The production is clear and easy to follow. Othello’s story been simplified and updated so that audiences unfamiliar with the original by the Bard will fully understand and appreciate this play. Young audiences, in particular, will love the high octane hip hop music and rap songs, as performed easily by the talented quartet of young actors. It’s great to once again see more of the Moor rapping the story of Desdemona and himself, but with swag.
Reviewed by Colin Douglas
Presented April 12-May 8 by Chicago Shakespeare Theater, at Navy Pier, Chicago, in their Upstairs space.
Tickets are available by calling the box office at 312-595-5600 or by going to www.chicagoshakes.com.
Additional information about this and other fine area productions can be found by visiting www.theatreinchicago.com