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Othello & Otis

cabaret & variety · bag o' bones collective · Ages 18+ · world premiere · United States of America

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Review by OLIVIA BUNTAINE

June 06, 2018
tagged as: Raw · compelling · dreamscape · Race · social justice · movement

What I liked

It was immediately obvious this show knew their audience and the message they wanted to communicate. The show starts and ends with the James Baldwin quote “I’m terrified at the moral apathy – the death of the heart – which is happening in my country.” This confrontation of apathy anchors the piece, along side the frank, conversational and accessible way in which actor Francesca Gamez brings in and calls out the “white liberal,” a demographic one could easily assume makes up a lot of the fringe audience. The dreamscape winds through passages of Shakespeare (with beautiful text work), James Baldwin, and the incredibly emotional and moving singing of Otis Redding by actor Sandy Rather (whose a cappella, fearless vocals provided some of the most raw and touching moments of the piece).

Also noteworthy are the well-placed voice over fragments of Obama’s speech on the murder of Trayvon Martin, which provided an unsettling and mournful link to the present- simultaneously cutting through the broad strokes of Baldwin and Shakespeare AND leaving the audience to grapple with the dissonance of the language.

What I didn't like

I would only wish for this group of individuals to have more time to develop this already dynamic piece and a longer time slot with which to demonstrate that development.

My overall impression

This startlingly intimate portrait of contemporary white apathy using the words of legendary black artists is intricate, subtle, beautifully performed and a necessary call to action.

These are women who make me hopeful for the future of socially conscious theater and for a different world.

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