COURTESY HONOLULU THEATRE FOR YOUTH
Othello(Charles Kupahu Timtim) has slain Desdemona (Elizabeth Wolfe) in HTY's production.
Rap version lacks classic's emotional heft
HONOLULU Theatre for Youth's restaging of an abbreviated, rap version of Shakespeare's tragedy "Othello" is solidly staged but falls short of achieving the classic play's emotional heights.
Granted, we're talking about a 70-minute version with bare-minimum set, props, costume and cast, aimed at audiences 10 years old and up. If it's meant to be a teaser for the real thing -- "stripped down to its essentials," as director-fight choreographer Tony Pisculli writes in the program -- this "Othello" fulfills that purpose. My only regret is that this production could've been stronger dramatically.
Presented by: Honolulu Theatre for Youth
Shows: Continue at 4:30 and 7:30 p.m. Saturdays through March 18.
Where: Tenney Theatre, St. Andrew's Cathedral.
Tickets: $16; $8 for ages 3 to 18, and seniors.
Info: Call 839-9885 or visit htyweb.org.
The elements are all there. You've got your physically imposing, dark-skinned Moor soldier in Othello; his fair and supportive newlywed wife Desdemona; the handsome lieutenant Cassio; and the vindictive and revengeful soldier Iago, who sets them all against each other -- just because he can.
The one element that could've been an obvious distraction, converting the characters' monologues into raps, is instead its strength.
Company member and sound designer BullDog, the stocky actor who reprises his role as Iago, has done a fine job converting the cadence of the Bard's lines into smooth-flowing raps, accompanied by old-school, pre-recorded backing tracks. (A disc jockey on the "wheels of steel" to scratch behind, and play off of, the actors, and trigger sound cues live on stage, would have added a great visual element.)
While Elizabeth Wolfe, Charles Kupahu Timtim and BullDog, in particular, pull off their rap monologues well, the highlight is an inspired and funny rap by BullDog and Reb Allen, as Iago and Cassio drink both to Othello's marriage and their victorious battle over the Turks in Cyprus.
Wolfe, due to her background with the Hawaii Shakespeare Festival, plays a convincing Desdemona, the upper-class Venetian married to her Moorish military hero.
Timtim, who's with the music group Chant, is a bit more problematic as Othello. While he fills out the physical requirements of his character, Timtim is spotty in bringing out the poetry and flow of the Bard's words. His delivery is choppy at times, coming off more like an anguished action figure rather than the tragic man beset with pain and doubt about the supposed infidelity of the woman he loves. Still, there's time left in this play's run to get more comfortable with his words.
In the meantime, HTY's "Othello" remains a well-intentioned experiment that deserves more fleshing out.