(Charles Isherwood’s article appeared in the New York Times, 11/16.)
Last time I checked, there were not a lot of laughs in Shakespeare’s tragedy about a Moorish general beset by the green-eyed monster. Yet giggles abound in “Othello: The Remix,” a clever and exuberantly performed hip-hop version of the play that opened on Wednesday at the Westside Theater.
If the unlikely combination of hip-hop and Shakespeare rings a bell, it’s because the writer-composers, directors and stars of the show — known as the Q Brothers, GQ and JQ — have concocted this kind of madcap mash-up before. They had an Off Broadway hit back in 1999 with “The Bomb-itty of Errors,” adapted from — well, you can guess — and have written versions of several other Shakespeare plays.
This is the first time they have brought to New York an adaptation of a tragedy into what is essentially a rapped opera, with minimal dialogue. (Coming up: “Hamlet” and “Macbeth.”) But the Q Brothers are smart to play to their strengths. While their version conforms broadly to the original, it is continually infused with impish humor; it’s as much a spoof of “Othello” as it is a serious attempt to translate the play into a contemporary musical idiom.