The Chicago Shakespeare Theater has a lengthy history of providing wonderful traditional performances. They are equally as skilled, though, at putting on breathtakingly innovative and unoriginal productions as well. After entertaining audiences in London, Edinburgh and Germany, a show called “Othello: The Remix” has arrived in the United States at last and is blowing audiences away. The production, created by brothers “JQ” and “GQ” and carried out by a cast that includes two others, is a variation of the timeless play that is comprised completely of hip-hop and rap. Though this premise seems far-fetched, the results are flawless, energetic and incredible. The stage is sparse and the cast is small but the outcome is simultaneously moving and hilarious.
The show takes place on the Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s upstairs stage. As the audience waits in the lobby, music blares and colored lights bathe the walls. Inside the theater, seating is limited and intimate and the set is covered in spray paint. Immediately, the audience knows what that they are in for – anything but a typical Shakespearean play.
“‘Othello: The Remix’ opened at Chicago Shakespeare while a 21st century ‘Julius Caesar’ and Renaissance-era ‘Short Shakespeare! Romeo and Juliet’ for students shared the Courtyard Theater,” said Anna Marie Wilharm, Chicago Shakespeare Theater Public Relations Assistant. “Adding ‘Othello: The Remix’ to the mix really shows how Shakespeare can be seen through a variety of lenses and attract diverse audiences.”
The Q brothers are indisputable Shakespearean masterminds. They have managed to display the versatility of Shakespeare and pay homage to his literary genius, while simultaneously instilling it with their own spirit and musicality. There is visible evidence of its infectiousness in an audience that just can’t help but sway and dance along.
Postell Pringle, Jackson Doran, JQ and GQ are the four men who comprise the small and dynamic cast. Though they all portray one main character, they also flip in and out of other personas and genders unrecognizably. Their undertaking of multiple characters is seamless and intriguing. It provides hilarity but also displays their impressive acting abilities.
Pringle absolutely shines as the title role of Othello. His emotional arc is flawlessly mastered and he manages to instill humor and light-heartedness in a character that faces a famously tragic end. Pringle delivers two incredible performances. One is comprised of music and one of Shakespeare, though he blends the two seamlessly.
What makes “Othello: The Remix” most effective is its dimensionality. Though it strays away from the original text, it retains every bit of its original intention while instilling it with a whole new sense of vigor through its musicality. Its climax utilizes an especially masterful combination of rhythm, innovation and choreography that left much of the audience in visible tears even though they had been roaring with laughter moments earlier.
If you are looking for an enjoyable evening, this show will provide it. “Othello: The Remix” is 90 minutes of absolute entertainment and you will find yourself wishing there was a soundtrack to purchase afterward. It is fast-paced and incomparably delightful. Brothers JQ and GQ have accomplished more than a retelling of a renowned story; they have molded a new form of art. To miss this show is to miss a true opportunity.
“Othello: The Remix” will run through April 28 at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, 800 E. Grand Ave.