Thursday, April 21, 2016

Review: Othello:The Remix

I saw the Q Brothers production of Othello The Remix and it was absolutely fabulous!

The Q Brothers are actual brothers from Chicago who re-create masterworks (primarily of Shakespeare, but they recently did A Christmas Carol!) They call these productions add-raptations, because they primarily add rap music into the story, and along the way combine it with dance, comedy, soul, music, and just about everything else they can pull out of their hats.  They've got four or five of them under their belt including The Bombity of Errors,  Funk It Up About Nothin', and I <3 Juliet, Christmas Carol, and Othello.

Othello was originally commissioned by the Globe Theatre of London, and has played Chicago Shakespeare once before to sold out shows.  This limited run (show ends May 8) is probably going to do the same so you should get your tickets early.  The word of mouth on these shows is phenomenal!

For this show, they've moved the action to an Empire-style locale (but remember, they wrote this before Empire even started!)

Othello is a hot rap artist with all kinds of juice. (Think Kanye)  He's on tour with his crew when he falls in love with a soul singer named Desdemona (Think Adele).  He's got a couple of his boys who also write/rap/ and hope to make it big in their own right (Iago, a rap purist with a punk/metal edge and Cascio, who would be right at home in a boy band.)  The show then follows Shakespeare's trajectory pretty well, right up until the tragic tragic end.

The acting is phenomenal.  The first song set the scene, and I was worried, because while the raps were clever and set up the situation, I was afraid that's all it was going to be.  My fears were allayed however.  All of the actors (there are 4 performers) play a multiple of roles, including wives and girlfriends, the Oil sheik mafiosi record producer, the dweeby lighting designer, and much more.  All of the guys surprise and amaze with their characterizations and ability to act and portray their distinct characters while rapping, dancing, and doing everything else.

An interesting choice was Desdemona, who never appears on stage, we just hear her sultry voice.  This choice creates a few donut holes in the middle of her scenes, but the performers make it work.  And the symbolism when Othello, moved my Iago's manipulations, kills her out of rage, is simply powerful.

Above it all there is a fifth character, the DJ, who mixes the music and sound for the show live on stage and does a great job of keeping us all in it.

Overall, I can't recommend this show highly enough.  Go see it if you can!

Here's a video montage of the show.

Tickets are available at Chicago Shakespeare  The show runs through May 8.

Find the Q Brothers online at 
(Interesting side note:  their family also owns Merz Apothecary in Lincoln Square and does fine men's grooming products as The Q Brothers.  Who knew?)


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