Goodnight Revives Shakespeare’s Heroines

This weekend’s production of Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet) looks to be the main event in this weekend’s sparse Arts offerings. Goodnight, written by award-winning playwright Ann-Marie MacDonald, is a riotous script that has garnered rave reviews throughout the country. The Washington Post called it “delightful, often hilarious … MacDonald doesn’t miss a tick, scattering satirical observations on love and sex, scholarship, and the Bard like birdseed, while taking full advantage of the slapstick possibilities in Shakespearean cross-dressing.” The play follows the adventures of English professor Constance Ledbelly, whose obsession with Shakespeare carries over into her work on her thesis—to prove that the original versions of Othello and Romeo and Juliet were comedies rather than the tragedies we know them as today. After discovering and deciphering an ancient manuscript, Constance is transported back in time into the plays themselves, where she attempts to change the fates of the heroines (Desdemona and Juliet) from their deaths. The script takes many twists and turns in a hilarious journey through Shakespeare’s greatest tragedies. Director Taylor Allbright ’04 commented that while a prior knowledge of Shakespeare isn’t necessary, audience members will, undoubtedly, have a greater appreciation of the play if they are familiar with the works. The play was originally written for five actors to perform, each portraying at least two characters (except for Constance). In order to provide opportunities for more actors, Allbright nearly doubled the size of the cast, adding four actors. New Upper Clea Major ’05 plays Constance, supported by Priscilla I’Anson ’06 as Desdemona and Megan Evans ’06 as Juliet. Major portrays Constance as an eccentric and almost pitiful woman, completely absorbed in her work and living a life almost as tragic as the plays she loves. “Her expression on stage is excellent, and her comedic timing is unique,” said theatre producer Alison Schouten ’04. Two of the three new Lowers in the play, I’Anson and Evans, should be very impressive in their PA debuts. I’Anson uses a very strong character in her portrayal of Desdemona and Evans portrays Juliet the way Constance thinks she should be portrayed: promiscuous and whiny. This is not to say that Evans does a poor job; on the contrary, her portrayal is refreshing. The male leads of the show, Chris Lynch ’04, Jason French ’04 as Romeo, and Darren DeFreeuw ’04 as Iago, are also very strong, as are Malika Felix ’04 as the Ghost and Brianna Zani ’06 as the Chorus. One of Allbright’s choices when staging the show was to put nearly all the actors in tights, including the males in the cast. This not only humbles the actors, but it also places them in Renaissance costume and creates a and realistic environment. The play is divided into four sections. The first of these, “the dumbshow,” takes place in contemporary time and shows Constance’s dedication to her work, which is evident in her apparent oblivion to death and destruction taking place around her, done without words in “dumbshow” fashion. The second section, Act One, also takes place in the present-day and shows Constance’s struggles. This segues into Act Two with a time warp to the 16th century and “Othello.” Act Three follows, after another time warp to Renaissance Italy and “Romeo and Juliet.” Goodnight is definitely a show worth seeing. Its unique humor and interesting content make it a highlight of this term’s theatre schedule. The cast is outstanding, the script is amazing, and the performance should be excellent. Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet) goes up Saturday at 7 pm and Sunday at 1 pm in Steinbach Theater.