P&W’s Goodnight Desdemona, Good Morning Juliet

Goodnight Desdemona, Good morning Juliet had some standout performers who were a pleasure to watch, but overall it could have used some editing.

Goodnight Desdemona, Good Morning Juliet follows the story of a young English professor Constance Leadbottom (Olivia Gould ’16), who is in the process of decoding the Gustav Manuscript, a cryptic text that potentially holds information proving that the plays Othello and Romeo and Juliet were originally intended to be comedies. After a discouraging bout of romantic and academic letdown by her superior/love interest Professor Night (Joesph Malionek ’17), she is sucked into the stories of both plays, and subsequently embarks on a journey of self-discovery.

Gould fit the role perfectly, and her charming likability and snappy delivery was refreshing and relatable. She adapted well to the diverse menu of characters she interacted with, matching herself with their individual energies. Playing a boisterous and absurd Tybalt, Brendan Leonard’s ’16 comedic timing was a panacea for stale scenes. Alexis Atkinson  ‘15 fashioned a well-rounded and multi dimensional portrait of Desdemona, who was supposed to be a powerful warrior, but was also earnest and kind. Zach Schutzman ’16 had a great cameo as a nurse, and delivered his lines in free verse with the affect of a Jewish mother, creating a delightful juxtaposition.

It was perhaps the lines in Shakespearean verse which created challenges for some of the actors, whodidn’t know exactly how to handle the language. Anne-Marie MacDonald wrote much of the raunchiest and high delivery moments of dialogue embedded in the language of the characters from Othello and Romeo and Juliet. This creates an interesting mix of high language and low brow humor, which relies on a solid understanding of Shakespearean language in order for jokes to land. Unfortunately, some actors trampled on the punchlines and rushed through jokes as they rattled off in iambic pentameter without much thought of what they were actually saying. In these instances it became obvious when people weren’t thinking about their lines.

The play seemed to drag on for a bit, I had to leave during intermission on Friday and returnd to see the second act the next day. Overall I believe the play was around two hours, which is typical, but there were instances which slowed down the tempo of the play. Pacing also took a hit due to the lack of energy and enthusiasm in certain scenes.  At one point in the second act there was a scene at a masquerade ball. After the relevant characters left the scene, the audience was left to watch a non-verbal bit where Tommy Webel ’16 couldn’t find a partner to dance with and tried to make it in with other couples until he finally found another dance partner. I appreciated the attempt to create a physical bit, but it seemed entirely unimportant to the plot, and created an odd scene transition that depended on audience laughter in order to run smoothly.

On the topic of transitions, they were another element which would have benefitted from some tuning. Almost all of them were fade to black, sans music, which chopped up the flow of the play. It would have been easy to carry the scenes through on a musical interlude, or utilize Madison Mcleod’s ’15 chorus (aka trademark Powder and Wig off-to-the-side-armchair character) as a distraction. A transition should try and maintain the illusion of a continuous story, mitigating the “I am sitting in a dark theater, alone” feeling for the audience. During this play however, I was reminded far too often that I came alone.

Successful elements of transition came in the use of projections and minimal props for the staging of the production. This made it easy to hop around from Office to Cyprus to Verona, and back around, reduced the amount of transition time. The minimal set however did nothing to supplement blocking, which was often bare and lacking in dynamism.

Overall I enjoyed the show, and give props to all who took part in the play, especially when working with the paltry audience of a matinee. It is hard to do funny without an audience, and the cast worked pretty well with what they were dealt. I loved Juliet’s dagger gag (she was constantly pulling out new ones) and I thought the final tableau was a perfect way to end the story.

I think that low energy and dead air were the shows biggest follies. However, this was not entirely their fault. Yes, there was some botched delivery and cumbersome pacing but these performers know how to work with an audience, and had there been more people in attendance, Goodnight Desdemona, Good morning Juliet would have flourished.

Comments are closed.