HOT EVENTS MGT MAGAZINE VISITING ARCHIVE MGT PARTNERS MGT TEAM
My Gay Toronto - MGT Stage

Review

Goodnight Desdemona
(Good Morning Juliet) romps in longjohns

by Drew Rowsome
Photos by Scott Gorman

Academic and Shakespearian studies are not usually pursuits that inspire great hilarity but when Ann-Marie MacDonald puts a feminist spin on an analysis of two tragedies, the results are uproarious. Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet) is full of theatre jokes, parodies of Shakespeare and a solid helping of queer theory and gender bending. Hart House Theatre is a perfect setting for this production. The walls drip with academic history just ripe for lampooning and Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet) can't resist pricking the pomposity. 

Struggling, and self-proclaimed "mouse," professor's assistant Constance Ledbelly (played by the feisty, energetic and lovable Lesley Robertson) falls through the garbage can in her office and into the actual plays that figure in her doctorate paper. There is some murky explanation involving a mysterious magical manuscript but it is all an excuse for MacDonald to riff on Othello and Romeo and Juliet's themes, sexism and artistic validity. And riff she does, with uproarious floods of iambic pentameter and very Shakespearian coincidences and mistaken identities. A basic knowledge of the plays does make the text even funnier - the echoing variations on sacred text speeches are particularly smart and comic - but Ledbelly's journey is intriguing enough to qualify as an absurdist adventure. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on one's particular taste, this production escalates into a cross-dressing flat-out farce that entertains at the expense of the plot and ideas.

Robertson is consistent throughout but the rest of the cast struggles with whether to parody excessively plummy Shakespearian acting or to deliver realism. The women, Cydney Penner and Katie Ribout, fare best as their characters are meant to be strong and larger than life, and that they deliver. Nathan Bitton, so hunky and backwoods butch in Bone Cage, has to incarnate many ambiguous - sexually and morally - characters, and has a tendency to mug (sometimes it works brilliantly, Romeo's tendency to fall in love at first sight is a comic highlight even with multiple repetitions).

Bitton's counterpart Nicholas Porteous has his classically handsome looks pressed into service in multiple evil but ruggedly appealing characterizations that, while hilarious, are very self-aware and winking. The pair are valiant but slightly undone by a script that by necessity makes the male roles caricatures. Intriguingly, for a play that sets out to elevate Shakespeare's underwritten female roles, the men manage to steal much of the focus and these minor characters step to the forefront and demand a spotlight, another echo of Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet) 's central thesis. The hamminess is either a shrewd directorial choice still being ironed out or a clever additional layer to an already layered play.

The production values of Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet) are stellar with the set and costumes being particularly clever. Having the basic layer of clothing - the costume changes are many and multiple with tunics and capes adorned with glee abandon - be very Canadian longjohns is a witty, and practical, riff on MacDonalds's satirical jabs that add Canadianisms to flowery Shakespearian prose. And, most importantly, the winterwear adds an offbeat flattering sexiness in a very Canadian fashion. t sets out to elevate Shakespeare's underwritten female roles, the men manage to steal much of the focus and these minor characters step to the forefront and demand a spotlight, another echo of Good Morning Desdemona (Good Night Juliet)'s central thesis. The hamminess is either a shrewd directorial choice still being ironed out or a clever additional layer to an already layered play.

The production values of Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet) are stellar with the set and costumes being particularly clever. Having the basic layer of clothing - the costume changes are many and multiple with tunics and capes adorned with glee abandon - be very Canadian longjohns is a witty, and practical, riff on MacDonalds's satirical jabs that add Canadianisms to flowery Shakespearian prose. And, most importantly, the winterwear adds an offbeat flattering sexiness in a very Canadian fashion. 

Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet) continues until Sat, March 8 at Hart House Theatre, 7 Hart House Circle. harthouse.ca


2