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Sascha Cole, Pippa Leslie, Margo MacDonald, Zach Counsil  Photo: GCTC/Andrew Alexander
Sascha Cole, Pippa Leslie, Margo MacDonald, Zach Counsil Photo: GCTC/Andrew Alexander

Theatre Review: "Goodnight Desdemona, (Good Morning Juliet)" at GCTC

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A funny thing happened on the way to the theatre. . . What if two of Shakespeare's tragedies, Othello and Romeo and Juliet, were actually comedies? This clever play sends both of them off in unexpected directions - and in iambic pentameter, no less.

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Ann-Marie MacDonald’s clever play Goodnight Desdemona, (Good Morning Juliet) is a lively comedic tale of self-discovery.  Graduate Assistant Constance Leadbelly, who is obsessed with tracing obscure Shakespearian sources, is suddenly catapulted into the worlds of Othello and Romeo and Juliet.  She inadvertently transforms them into comedies by saving the lives of the two leading ladies.  In the world of the plays, the dialogue is in nifty iambic pentameter.  There are sword fights, disguises, and seductions.  In Act II there’s some entertaining gender bending, prompting Desdemona’s forlorn cry, “Does no one in Verona sail straight?”

Brian Smith’s office set with a back wall and door framed by two tower-like side walls and painted a rather bilious pink, is framed by red satin drapes.  It works much better when it cleverly transforms to the Elizabethan setting.  His costumes are good, especially Juliet’s dress and the masks.  Steven Lafond’s music and sound are very effective, as is John Koensgen’s staging of the various fights and grapplings.  Jock Munro’s lighting is, as usual, excellent, in particular the projections on the backdrop and the transformation.

The cast of five is rather uneven.  Margo MacDonald as the confused Constance Leadbelly is the only actor who doesn’t play multiple roles.  Surprisingly, she seems to have lost her comic timing and her indication of Constance’s timidity is just that – indicating.  Sascha Cole’s overwrought Desdemona and her equally overwrought Mercutio are essentially the same character.  However, she’s hilarious as the wavery-voiced lute player.

It’s hard to believe baby-faced Zach Counsil as Iago.  He’s much better as the chubby off-the-wall gender bending Romeo.  As for Geoff McBride, he’s got the right touch of academic smarminess as Professor Night and is very funny as Juliet’s Nurse.

The cast stand-out is Pippa Leslie as an eager valley girl Juliet.  Her comic timing is on the nose, even as the eye-rolling Soldier of Cyprus.  Not only that, she’s done a nice job with the choreography, especially the trio dance of Constance, Romeo and Juliet.

Director Ann Hodges has done some nice bits of staging.  I liked the shadow-play deaths in the opening, the clever Act II party décor and the birthday transformation back to the office.  However, she’s allowed her actors, with the exception of Miss Leslie, to both work too hard at the cleverness of the script and to play their characters on one note.  Their natural sense of comedy seems to have been stifled, with the exception of the irrepressible Mr. Counsil’s Romeo and again, Miss Leslie.

It’s not necessary to know Othello and Romeo and Juliet well to enjoy the play, as the plot is easy to follow, however you might miss some of the clever word play.  Although at times this production seems burdened with trying to live up to the play’s reputation, it still has plenty of laughs and provides an enjoyable evening.

On a scale of one to five the GCTC production of Goodnight Desdemona, (Good Morning Juliet) gets four solar panels.  For North Country Public Radio I’m Connie Meng.

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