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Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Saturday, February 24

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Performance Fri Apr 19 2013

Othello: the Remix: The New Prose Called Rap

Thumbnail image for CST_OTHE_5.jpg

I've said before that Shakespeare was a man for all ages who wrote plays for all time. Sometimes, they were his own creation; other times, they were stories written by others that the bard simply made relevant to the time in which he lived. Othello is one of those stories. The original tale was written by Cinthio in 1565. I once made the popular but foolish mistake of thinking that this story was Shakespeare's own genius at work. I was promptly corrected by Lar Lubovitch, the choreographer for the upcoming performance of the play by the Joffrey Ballet. Now, Othello has been remade a third time. Chicago Shakespeare Theater's production of the Q Brothers' Othello: The Remix, now extended through June 15, translates the sometimes tricky prose of Shakespeare's play into a language that the modern world understands: rap.

Shakespeare's Othello is the tale of the title character, a Moor and hired general in the Venetian army, and his love, Desdemona, who marries him without her father's consent. At the same time as this domestic unrest begins, Brabantio, Desdemona's father, faces a growing threat from the Turks in Cyprus. Meanwhile, Iago and Roderigo are both consumed by jealousy of Othello for different reasons; Iago's springs from a military promotion gone wrong, while Roderigo longs for Desdemona. The tale devolves into a series of murders based in envy and the regret they bring.

In the Q Brothers' Othello: The Remix, Othello is a self-made rapper who escaped from the ghetto while his light-skinned love, Desdemona, is the voice for his beats. Iago and Roderigo are still jealous: Iago is now a slimy Eminem-esque rapper who caters to the underground scene because Othello has taken over the music empire to become the future CEO of a record label, and Roderigo, possibly the greatest video game nerd on Earth, still longs for Desdemona.

The cast is made up of only five men: Jackson Doran, GQ, JQ, Postell Pringle, and Clayton Stamper, who carry every unique and hilarious character they portray in the back pockets of their jumpsuits. The dialogue of the play is an incredible, two-hour long string of rap, the sort that is vaguely reminiscent of Will Smith's "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," and dare I say, the new iambic pentameter. And although Othello is a tragedy, there are many laughs to be had.

I can't wrap up this review without a shout-out to Jesse Klug, the lighting designer. The simple set was completed only by his stunning visuals--green lights for envy and undulating circles for the crazier parts of the production. Even if the audience doesn't understand why the tone of the play suddenly changes, their feelings are subconsciously induced by the subtle accuracy of the light-engendered climate.

CST's production of Othello: The Remix has been extended through June 15. The play makes its home in the Theater Upstairs at Chicago Shakespeare, 800 E. Grand. Tickets are $20-$35 and can be purchased online or by calling the box office at 312-595-5600. Note: The production uses strobe lights, smoke machines and loud noises, all things to consider before seeing the play.

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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »


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