There’s very little that’s punk about “Black Vengeance,” a rock musical based on “Othello,” unless one considers frequently incomprehensible vocals an essential punk characteristic.
Ghost Light Theatricals’ production of Nathaniel Porter’s ambitious but misguided Shakespeare adaptation flails in an attempt to simulate the chaotic energy of a punk-rock show, but ends up looking merely sloppy.
Porter transposes the Bard’s tale of betrayal to the music world, where Othello (Darien Upshaw) is the frontman of a punk band, his new wife, Des (Jackie Miedema), is a Taylor Swift-like country artist and Iago (Tom Stewart) is the scorned band manager who sees an opportunity to deceive Othello in guitarist Cass (Brian Pucheu).
This is a scrawled-in-crayon take, where every character is boiled down to one prominent emotion and every step in Iago’s plan to make Othello believe Des is unfaithful is spelled out in excruciating detail.
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The original songs consist of generic three-chord punk imitations and a couple vaguely countrylike tunes. If the problematic sound mix were adjusted to give the vocals some space, these might be passable, but the bigger problem lies with the casting — the majority of the actors just aren’t up to the task, often struggling to stay on-key. For all of their genre affectations, Porter’s songs are still too traditional for this to be remotely acceptable.
At the very least, Stewart’s swaggering, weaseling performance as Iago and Kayla Teel’s toxically self-absorbed turn as his wife, Emmy, generate some sparks with their unrepentant nastiness. That kind of attitude is sorely lacking in the rest of “Black Vengeance.”
Dusty Somers: email@example.com