BLACK VENGEANCE Imagine the plot as MC Ride from Death Grips eloped with a pre-freak-out Miley Cyrus but his band manager is trying to gaslight him.
  • Stephanie Mallard Couch
  • BLACK VENGEANCE Imagine the plot as MC Ride from Death Grips eloped with a pre-freak-out Miley Cyrus but his band manager is trying to gaslight him.

The impulse to rewrite and "modernize" Shakespeare can have gimmicky and stultifying results—A Midsummer Night's Rave, anyone? Tromeo and Juliet?—but Nathaniel Porter's airlift of Othello into the world of scrappy punk bands works surprisingly well. Othello "the Moor," an army general, becomes the singer for a band called Black Vengeance and the only person of color in his scene. Desdemona, the daughter of a Venetian senator who Othello elopes with, becomes Des, the lily-white daughter of a racist country-music star. And Iago, the ensign who's angry that Othello promoted a younger soldier over him, becomes Black Vengeance's manager, who's furious he wasn't asked to play lead guitar.

Plot point for plot point, it's a good fit—in Othello, for example, Desdemona's father accuses Othello of using "witchcraft" to seduce his daughter. "She loved me for the dangers I had pass'd," Othello responds, "and I loved her that she did pity them. This only is the witchcraft I have used." In Black Vengeance, the country-star father-in-law growls: "What do you have her on? Is it cocaine? Meth? Heroin? What is making her act this way?" "We don't need drugs, old man," Othello shoots back. "She likes me. She likes my stories. She likes my scars."

Director Emily Harvey and designer Kasia Rozanska have turned the Ballard Underground into a basement rock club, covering its walls in graffiti—some topical ("Free Pussy Riot"), some Shakespearean ("I did love the Moor"), and some timeless ("Dick punch").

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