Monday, November 21, 2016

Othello: The Remix @ The Westside Theater (Upstairs)

In recent seasons where hip hop seems to be dominating musical theater, The Q Brothers’ Othello: the Remix fits right in. But these brothers are no strangers to infusing the style into their work.  In the past decade and a half, the production group has created several hip hop adaptations of Shakespeare’s most famous works: The Bomb-itty of Errors, Funk it Up About Nothing, Q Gents, and I <3 Juliet have been produced around the country and Off-Broadway. John Leguizamo’s presentation of Othello the Remix brings the Q Brothers back to New York.
The re-imagining presents Othello (Postell Pringle) as a hip hop mogul, about to embark on a cross country tour to promote the new album for pop-rapper Cassio (Jackson Doran). Fellow artist Iago (GQ) feels betrayed to be the “opener for the opener” on the tour, and sets out to get revenge by ruining Cassio’s career and Othello’s new marriage. Though the plot is modernized, Shakepeare’s themes of jealousy and betrayal are still very apparent.
The Q Brothers incorporate a unique style of comedy into their work. Like a sketch group, there are many characters played by the company of four actors. Wigs, shirt fronts, and hats are used to differentiate the characters. Like an improv troupe, the actors break the fourth wall and make out-there jokes that incite heavy laughs. But where they differ: they do all this in the middle of catchy beats and smart rhymes, just like a hip-hop crew. Move over Hamilton, looks like you have some competition.
JQ stands out as the character actor of the production. In 80 minutes, he becomes tennis-obsessed record producer Loco Vito, Rosie Perez-like groupie Bianca, and lovesick Dungeons & Dragons player Roderigo. Doran’s Cassio is an endearing comic relief: the guy you want to laugh at and feel bad for at the same time. GQ’s Iago is earnest and jealous; he’s the puppet master villain who you almost want to see succeed. Pringle carries the show as leading man Othello, and your hearts breaks right along with him.
Equal parts Shakespeare, Hip hop, and sketch comedy doesn’t sound like a formula that should work. Oh but it does. Even the elderly ladies in the front row were raising the roof.
Othello: The Remix performs at the Westside Theater.

Review By: Kelcie Kosberg
Photos By: Carol Rosegg

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