Saturday, November 30, 2013

Review: (Ottawa) Goodnight Desdemona, (Good Morning Juliet)

A Wormhole to the Bard
by Jim Murchison

Imagine if Alice in Wonderland was about a beleaguered assistant professor who falls through a garbage pail, instead of a looking glass and finds herself lost in a land of Othello and Romeo and Juliet. That is what happens in Ann-Marie MacDonald’s Goodnight Desdemona, (Good Morning Juliet). It is a fantasy journey of discovery that has elements of Lewis Carroll, Jules Verne and William Shakespeare but is 100 per cent Ann-Marie MacDonald. 
Ann-Marie MacDonald’s script is witty, clever, insightful and thought-provoking as it examines one woman’s quest for literary and academic achievement that takes her instead to a place of personal enlightenment. Wrapped up in the middle of this, is a re-examination of Shakespeare and the lines between comedy and tragedy. Primarily though it is good fun. It plunges a dagger into the belly of Shakespeare and pulls out a rubber chicken. 
The cast is very well balanced and is a true ensemble in every sense of the word.
Margo MacDonald plays Constance Ledbelly, a brilliant but mousy academic assistant that allows her self to be used to prop up the career aspirations of a distasteful and patronizing member of the old boys club. She plays a balance of infatuation, fear, excitement and doubt as she bounces from one misadventure to another.
Geoff McBride plays several characters that range from snake oil slickness of Professor Night to the blood lusty bravado of Othello and Tybalt. He also gets a turn at the demurely subservient Juliet’s nurse. Sascha Cole matches the warrior side of McBride stride for stride as Mercutio and Desdemona. She can be powerful and intimidating but also gets some well deserved laughs as the simple minstrel servant.
Zach Counsil and Pippa Leslie are Romeo and Juliet. Bright burning lust can quickly turn into jaded routine if you don’t die young and so we find out in Romeo and Juliet; the later weeks. 
After the blush quickly fades from Juliet, her once sweet lips turn to instruments of nagging. Counsil’s Romeo runs to every corner of Verona to escape his bride, finally becoming a cross dresser to attract his heart’s desire. 
Leslie’s Juliet loses her innocence quickly to ennui. She plays Juliet with a raging pubescent hormonal rebellion for anything forbidden that is not Romeo.
The evening is greatly aided by the set and costumes of Brian Smith strikingly lit by Jock Munro and enhanced by the music and sound of Steven Lafond.
This play is very different from the traditional holiday fare and although I would recommend it to many, I think that it will be particularly enjoyable for those afflicted with the bah humbugs. You know who you are. You’ve heard one too many carols. You are already feeling pressured by the commercialism of the season. You’re angry that when you blow your nose it smells of cinnamon and nutmeg.
There is a place away from the malls where there is thoughtful, intelligent, theatre that examines feminism, parochialism and sexism in a way that is textured, layered and wrapped in wit. You can escape for a couple of hours and experience what life can be like without mass marketing and  constant jingling. The GCTC is providing that refuge with this play. 

Running time: approximately 130 minutes with one intermission

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