I was incredibly impressed by Othello: The Remix, which was written, directed, and composed by siblings JQ and GQ. Impressed might sound like a minute reaction, but when I say impressed I do not only mean that I was inspired by this production, but I also felt taught by it. Shakespeare’s Othello has been re-done billions of times throughout centuries, but it is not every day that a take on this English masterpiece is fresh and enlightening upon the material. Othello: The Remix shows not only the humor of this world-renown play, but also the darkness.
GQ (Iago) and Postell Pringle (Othello)
Othello: The Remix takes places in the modern-day Hip Hop world, with Othello (Postell Pringle) being an acclaimed rapper, whom falls in love for the most beautiful “honey” of all, Desdemona. We never see this woman that has enraptured his heart but we hear of her “lily-white” skin and her description as the most beautiful woman ever. Moreover, we hear her voice like a beacon of light cooing over the raps composed by the Q Brothers and mixed by DJ Supernova, who works as an MC of the pre-show entertainment. As Othello raps over bouncing, infectious beats that make it difficult not to get-up and dance, the scenic and lighting design by Scott Adam Davis and Keith A. Traux light up in neon like a club with figurines of project buildings. As the scene matches Othello’s moods, the audience is slowly taken into the hubris of this character. While most renditions of Othello show him as a victim of Iago’s machinations, Othello: The Remix shows him as a kind, charismatic man whose own self-absorption makes the people that love him easily tossed, including Iago.
GQ makes Iago a conniving sniveler, which the character is historically known to be, but, through piercing rap flows, we realize that, despite his malice, he is also wounded. As Iago is made “the opener of the opener” to Othello’s new rap protege Cassio, you see the internal storm brewing with him at feeling decades worth of friendship, music, and loyalty mean nothing. Instead of helping his life-long prosper, Othello goes with his “buddy”, and sees Iago’s loyalty as a standard and not a luxury, which is why he gets so misled by the bruised Iago. It was the first time, in all my seeings of Othello renditions, that I understood Iago’s wickedness while, still, not condoning it. Often, Iago is portrayed as evil for no reason, but GQ, like all the actors, aim not to make characters, but human beings. Each one, despite their hilarious antics, has moments of nuanced sentiments that remind you beyond the rap flows, sick moves, and cutting jokes are real feelings that can manifest into humor but also a sordid tale of revenge. As Othello spirals further into darkness, this Hip Hop musical is excellent in elaborating that Othello is a story of domestic violence. Thus, when he finally kills his “beloved” you see the cruelty of Othello was not that he was manipulated by Iago, but that he was blinded his own ego. Did he love Desdemona tor was he obsessed with her as the gorgeous object that made him want to stop “sleeping around with hoes”? This question pervades through Othello: The Remix’s layered approach to Shakespeare’s tumultuous take on love vs infatuation. Yet, again, there are some serious laughs.
Jackson Doran (Cassio)
JQ steals the show with his multiple characters that are laced in comedic gold. Bianca, Loco Vito, and Roderigo are scene-stealers and carry most of the lightness of the Othello: The Remix. His ability to leave a scene and enter completely transformed into another, separate being was magnificent, and made him a magnet to audience’s eyes. Meanwhile, Jackson Doran’s Cassio adds a lovable innocence/ brotherly vibe to the atmosphere through his “Cassio Glide”. You grow protective over him as Othello/his hero is unwilling to even speak to him and clear the air. Yet, it is Doran’s cross-dressing role as Emilia that furthers the mistreated wedge of the women of Othello, but also shows that, even in their physical degradation from men, these ladies were strong. Desdemona and Emilia may have not had the physical prowess of their counterparts, whom used it fatally against them, but they had voices. Emilia is the only character that stands up to Othello and Iago’s vicious machinations, and has one of, if not, the best song of the show.
I would highly recommend Othello: The Remix, and hope everyone, that can, goes to see one of the best shows currently off broadway. Funny, insightful, and rhythmically potent, this Hip Hop version of Othello is more than memorable. It will be permanently imprinted into your mind. For More Information on Othello: The Remix Clicl Here. Othello: The Remix is currently playing at Westside Theatre on 407 West 43 street , and will play until March 5, 2017.