REVIEW: Funk It Up About Nothin’ (Chicago Shakespeare)

| January 28, 2011
     
     

Holla Q Bros – ‘Funk it Up’ is da bomb!

     
     

Funk it Up Cast (left to right) - DJ Adrienne Sanchez, Jillian Burfete, GQ, Ericka Ratcliff, Postell Pringle, JQ and Jackson Doran. Photo by John W. Sisson Jr.

  
Chicago Shakes and Merrigong Theatre Company presents
  
Funk It Up About Nothin’
   
Adapted and Directed by JQ and GQ
at
Navy Pier, 800 E. Grand (map)
thru Feb 13  | 
tickets: $25-$30  |  more info

Reviewed by Catey Sullivan

One of our great regrets of 2008 was missing Funk It Up About Nothin’, a “hip-hoptation” of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing by a pair of brothers who go by JQ and GQ. It you did likewise, we urge you to run, not walk, to get a ticket to this raptastic take on Shakespeare’s equally brilliant comedy.

The Q Brothers, GQ (top) and JQ (bottom), co-creators and directors of Chicago Shakespeare Theatre's 'Funk It Up about Nothin' at Navy Pier. Photo by Bill Burlingham.Fear not if you’re someone who leans more toward classic rock than the frenzied spin of contemporary scratch ‘n burn djs or the rapid-fire beats of rappers. You definitely do not need to be a hip-hop hipster to appreciate the whipsmart wordplay and percussive joys of Funk It Up. Were Shakespeare alive, dare we say, he would surely love what the Qs have done with “Much Ado”.

The key to the piece’s success is this: The Q Brothers are all about the text. As both directors and adaptors of the piece, they demonstrate a deep understanding of it, and from that well of knowledge, they create an adaptation wherein the words bounce, ricochet, rocket, rattle and hum with all the smarts, heart and – most importantly – the wicked humor of the original. Funk It Up is an hour-long word party that remains true to its source in terms of plot, characters and tone.

The cast, all of whom play multiple roles, spits out the verbiage like master poet slammers. As MC Lady B (Beatrice), Ericka Ratcliff is all sass and strut, a ferocious wit packaged in latex, fishnets and bling, deploying more brains of a Mensa member and more crackling sex appeal than a studio full of gyrating video vixens. As Benedick, JQ swaggers like a peacock, loving the single life and bragging about the ladies with a preening vanity that doesn’t quite conceal the one-woman heart that lies beneath his rep.

One of the (many) joys of Funk It Up is the attention paid to the supporting characters. Sure they’re broad, but they are also as well-defined as the leads – right down to the bumptious groundlings.

     
MC Lady B (Ericka Ratcliff) proclaims her love for Benedick (JQ) in Chicago Shakespeare Theater's Funk It Up About Nothin'.  Photo by John W. Sisson, Jr. Hero (Jillian Burfete) learns how to be a diva from MC Lady B (Ericka Ratcliff), in Chicago Shakespeare Theater's Funk It Up About Nothin' at Chicago Shakespeare Theater. Photo by John W. Sisson Jr.

As Lady B’s cousin Hero, Jillian Burfete makes the ingénue amusingly simple. Hero is one of Shakespeare’s flatter characters – she’s pretty, and innocent and that’s about it. Burfete uses that one-dimensionality to wonderful comic advantage, making Hero a dim but enthusiastic princess whose head is full of unicorns and rainbows and whose brow furrows with effort whenever she’s called on to understand anything involving more than, oh, two syllables.

GQ is a hoot as the bastard brother Don John, whose clarion call to funk up Hero’s wedding is absolutely infectious. He’s also a terrific Sheriff Dingleberry, “part pimp, part police”, and part “Shaft” homage. As Claudio, Jackson Doran gives the feckless youth the demeanor of an earnest frat boy. And Postell Pringle is utterly riotous as the prince Don Pedro and as Dingleberry’s flamingly flamboyant lieutenant.

In all, Funk It Up is electric, an hour-long onslaught that combines the best parts of a grooving concert, a rip-roaring good story and a night bopping at the clubs. And as the dj who provides the electronic foundation of all the cunning linguistic gymnastics, Adrienne Sanchez brings the noise and the funk, ensuring that the beat goes on throughout the merry war of words.

  
  
Rating: ★★★★
  
  

 

 

Scene from 'Funk It Up' - Borachio (JQ, left) and Don John (GQ, right) lure Claudio (Jackson Doran). Photo by John W. Sisson, Jr.

All photos by John W. Sisson Jr.

 

 

Artists

 

     

Jillian Burfete
Hero, Lil Boi

Jackson Doran
Claudio, Judge

     

Postell Pringle
Don Pedro, Verges

GQ
Don John, Leonato, Dingleberry

     

JQ
Benedick, Borachio

Ericka Ratcliff
MC Lady B, Big Jon

     

Adrienne Sanchez
DJ

  
    

 

Production Team

Scenic Designer: Brian Sidney Bembridge

Costume Designer: Debbie Baer

Lighting Designer: Toby Knyvett

Sound Designer: James Savage

Wig & Makeup Designer: Melissa Veal

 


Creative Team

The Q Brothers (Creators) are GQ and JQ. Born and raised in Chicago, they started their professional careers in the Off Broadway smash hit The Bomb-itty of Errors. G and three of his friends, who were studying at New York University’s Experimental Theatre Wing, adapted Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors into modern rhyme and J made the beats. In performance, G played multiple characters and J was the live DJ. G’s screen credits include the movies Drumline, What’s the Worst That Could Happen, and Rescue Dawn starring Christian Bale and directed by Werner Herzog. Along with other Bomb-itty guys, the twosome wrote and starred in their own hip-hop/sketch comedy TV show for MTV, Scratch and Burn, which has become something of a cult classic to young people everywhere. During trailer time on these projects, G worked on a movie script and Showtime gave him the money to shoot Just Another Story, a film he wrote, directed and starred in. J, his trusty sidekick, once again held down the audio end, providing the score and the original soundtrack for the film. It was featured in the Tribeca Film Festival and the Hamptons Film Festival, has aired on Showtime, and is widely available on DVD. G has also had prominent roles on Boston Public and co-starred in Johnny Zero, another Fox one-hour drama. J has produced a solo hip hop album entitled Foul Mouth Poet under his moniker J.A.Q. He produced the Grommits album Smashing and toured the country with them in 2004. He is now the lead singer of Them vs. Them, a new rock band out of Chicago. The Brothers came together once again for The Feel Good Album of the Year. Crossing heavily into jazz, rock, R&B, and electronica, the uncategorizable hip hop album follows only one rule: it has to be fun.

     
     

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Category: 2011 Reviews, Catey Sullivan, Chicago Shakespeare, Navy Pier, William Shakespeare

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