Goodnight Desdemona; good morning Juliet @ UTM Reply

Review by Danny Gaisin
Jan. 21st, ‘12


“If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything!” Marty McFly – ‘Back to the Future’.

In the 1988 comedy GOODNIGHT DESDEMONA, GOOD MORNING JULIET, author Ann-Marie MacDonald has her pathetic heroine fall down a rabbit-hole à la ‘Alice in Wonderland’ to confront Othello’s wife and Romeo’s love in hopes of proving that their stories should have been comedies if only…!

THEATRE ERINDALE’S innovative rendering of the story is directed by Daniel Levinson in what is a most creative and re-focused progression. The result is sexy, vulgar, very contemporary and overall –funny. Knowledge of the original Shakespearean tragedies is certainly an asset, but Levinson and his extremely competent cast imbue the presentation with a stand-alone quality that is both entertaining and even has a somewhat Coles Notes™ acquiescence to Eng. Lit. 101.

The concept of amalgamating of today and the Renaissance is always a challenge, but Levinson and company make their rendition seem almost plausible which is certainly a credit to all those involved with staging this work. Levinson recruited a UTM post-grad – Nathan Bitton as his assistant and his fight scene instructions are a valuable contribution to the play.

There are only 5 cast members. Our beleaguered Constance is superbly captured by Olivia Lloyd whose metamorphoses from milquetoast to women’s lib icon are a delight to observe. Her instinctive sense of comedic timing and mobile facial expressions enchant. Both Brenna Stewart & Michelle Nash are more than just eye candy [BTW- they are, and those figures!] capturing the inner fortitude that MacDonald bestows, rather than the subservience that Willy gave his originals. Both ladies seem to be performing with a delicious tongue-in-cheek demeanor that makes their characterizations so interesting and novel. I found both these novel characters to be far more interesting than the originals which were no doubt the intention of both the writer and director!

Their male counterparts, performing eight roles between them, are portrayed by Jack Morton & Adam Cresswell. The former who possesses an almost Greek chiseled-profile imparts his ‘Professor Night’ persona with personality traits that are identifiable to anyone who reads Dilbert®.  He gives us a different insight into Othello and makes Tybalt almost a hero. His nemesis Iago, who is one of Shakespeare’s more despicable individuals, is played by Cresswell strictly for laughs and pratfalls are epidemic. Cresswell is a superlative gymnast otherwise he’d only survive opening night! He also has an innately expressive body language and a projection style that these ancient ears certainly appreciate. The fight scenes: – male-to-male; and even the lascivious male/female physical altercations are visually spellbinding and recitations become superfluous given the volume of audience laughter. The recognition of contemporary symbols via mention or even musical background (Dirty Dancing, sans Grey & Swayze) was evocative bits of farce that never crossed the line into heavy-handed ham.

The backstage crew, specifically stage management deserve strong acknowledgement of its split second timing and almost faultless progression. Even the very few prop cockups were overlooked with thespian aplomb by the on-stage cast.

GOODNIGHT DESDEMONA, GOOD MORNING JULIET is at Theatre Erindale until Jan. 29th. See this offering as it conceivably might be in our TOP TEN 2012 list – eleven months hence.

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