by Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move

As a female driven production, Othello & Otis is sentient in its ability to explore white apathy towards the African American community.

Interwoven by spoken word, movement and singing – going back and forth from the songs of Otis Redding to text by Shakespeare, musical duo Ibeyi, songwriter Solange Knowles and others, at times it is also an indictment, and occasionally, a wail.

Both visually and verbally driven, cued heavily by the vocal talking points of our 44th U.S. President, Obama, this production offers an in-your-face enlightenment about how African Americans actually experience life in the ‘land of the free’; their challenges, their despairs, their unfortunate parallels to dominant white culture.

It’s a big idea with a lot of guts. But somehow the production gets cluttered by the strung together variety, including the modern movement choreography set in its midst…occasionally one excerpt getting drowned out by the next.  The presentation doesn’t always support itself in a way that it could. There is no clear call to action for white culture if one is meant to be had by this wake-up call to conservatives and liberals alike.

Fortunately, Othello & Otis‘ loudest narrator Francesca Gamez, also a cowriter on the project (along with Tinks Lovelace), gives strong voice to the most important ideas, and overall we understand the unmistakable, justified anger and need for empathy and acceptance of it.