Stages Gives Shakespeare a Hip-Hop Twist with Off-the-Hook ‘Othello: The Remix’

Claire McAdams
Stages Gives Shakespeare a Hip-Hop Twist with Off-the-Hook ‘Othello: The Remix’

ONE OF THE many amazing things about William Shakespeare is how well his comedies and tragedies communicate when reimagined in contemporary settings. Shakespeare’s language may be highfalutin, but the Bard always had his ear to the street — and always gave audiences a healthy dose of grand guignol (i.e. blood and more blood) along with the poetry.


So it makes sense that one of Shakespeare’s most powerful tragedies, Othello, totally works as Othello: The Remix, which opens tonight and runs through June 9 at Stages.

Created by award-winning theater artists The Q Brothers, Othello: The Remix is an 80-minute, non-stop, immersive experience blending old school drama with street-smart beats, and using the language of hip-hop to tell the story of a man (a.k.a. “The Moor”) whose alienation and jealousy (“the green-eyed monster”) leads to one of the most frightening and heartbreaking endings in the European canon.

Throughout the performance, the dialogue and monologues are recited by four rappers, each taking on multiple roles, save for the doomed Desdemona, Othello’s devoted but hapless wife. She appears not onstage in the flesh, but as a bed of colored lights that respond in luminescence to the meter and cadences of her offstage voice. Adding to the stripped-down, underground vibe, the show’s original beats and musical cues are provided by an onstage DJ. And like any concert or club gig, there is plenty of audience participation.

That said, The Q Brothers keep the original plot intact, even though the setting is very ’90s. Othello rises from his humble origins to find success as a stellar MC who tells the stories of the people in his neighborhood. As he rises to the top of the music industry, Othello decides to release his homeboy Cassio’s next album to expand and reach a wider audience. This pisses off the quintessential “every brother ain’t a brother” Iago, who preys incessantly on Othello’s insecurities, and slowly convinces him both Cassio and Desdemona are not to be trusted.

Othello: The Remix is directed by Houston’s very own Eboni Bell Darcy, and former Houston Poet Laureate Emanuelee “Outspoken” Bean is on board as musical director. Upcoming special performances include a Sunday Sit Down (May 5), where you can meet the Join the cast and designers for a free, behind-the-scenes conversation after the 2:30pm matinee; a student matinee on Friday, May 17, at 10am.; and an ASLI performance Saturday, June 1 at 2:30pm; and a Sensory Friendly performance on Saturday, June 8, at 2:30pm. Word!

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