Sometimes you see a show that takes you completely by surprise. For me, Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet) was that show.
I read it in university. I’m certain I read it in university – it’s a Canadian play. It was written by Ann-Marie MacDonald (yes, the author of Fall on Your Knees) in 1988 long before Fall On Your Knees. As director Kate Newby remarks in her Director’s Note, it explores a seemingly endless list of important historical, cultural and political themes. I apparently own two copies of this play. I absolutely read this play in university… and I don’t remember doing so at all, except a vague recollection that “this play seems kind of odd”.
My vague recollection is completely wrong.
This production of Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet) (a co-production between The Shakespeare Company, Hit & Myth and the newly re-branded Handsome Alice Theatre) absolutely proves the common refrain that plays are meant to be seen and not read. The show is equal turns clever, thought-provoking and downright hilarious.
The production also lands on so many levels. Though Shakespeare fans will have a million “Oh! I get it! I’m so clever!” moments (much of the show is written in iambic pentameter and MacDonald skillfully weaves actual Shakespearean dialogue into her own), the absolutely clear intentions and communication on the part of the five actresses in the show coupled with adept physical comedy allows audience members of any background to enjoy the show.
Oh yes, did I mention? The cast of Goodnight Desdemona is five powerhouse female actors – a virtual “who’s who” of young lady actors in Calgary – who play everything from a Henry V style “Chorus” (Julie Orton) to a swaggering Tybalt (Mabelle Carvajal) to Juliet (Genevieve Pare) and Desdemona (Allison Lynch) themselves. (Each of the aforementioned actors plays at least three different characters and it is never any doubt at all who they are. Stunning.) At the centre of it all, is Ayla Stephen as Constance Ledbelly, an academic who falls into the worlds of two of Shakespeare’s greatest tragedies as she tries to sort out the truth of the plays and the truth of herself. Ayla and I attended university together, so I’ve seen her play a dizzying array of different roles, but she really does shine when she gets to play a fish-out-of-water and lean into her comedic side. She, and, actually, all the ladies in this show, can communicate more with a facial expression than the average person can with a whole speech.
I generally wait until shows close to write about them, but in this case, I couldn’t wait. Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet) runs until May 21, 2016 and absolutely everyone should go see it. I’ve done my best not to spoil any plot elements, but I genuinely think I could go see the show again tonight and enjoy it just as much as I did the first time even knowing how it ends. Tell your friends, get a girl (or guy) squad together, grab your lover or guilt your mom into hanging out with you and take in this show before it closes. Tickets can be purchased by visiting The Shakespeare Company’s website.
(Note: I was not compensated in any way for writing this blog post. I just really really liked the play and want everyone I know to go see it so I can talk to them about it.)