Hey! A GCTC Review! Sweet Jeebus, that’s been a while. You’d have thunk I’d broken up with them, we used to be so tight! What with doing the volunteer gig there for a few years, plus catching all the shows in reviewer mode as well. It was becoming my second home for quite a while. But then along came the Ottawa Theatre School, review time got a lot harder to find, volunteer time became imPOSSible to find, and here I am now, getting my first review of their new season working a whole 3 shows in! Somewhat scandalous, and you are right to hate me for my sloth. For the record, I quite seriously enjoyed he previous 2 shows, PROUD and YOU FANCY YOURSELF, even if I didn’t get around to writing about them (SO SORRY!!).
But third time’s the charm, and I’m finally getting back on that GCTC horse with their latest production, Ann-Marie MacDonald’s GOODNIGHT DESDEMONA, (GOOD MORNING JULIET). A Canuck fav’rit, Annie Mac’s story follows bookish Constance Ledbelly (the always wonderful Margo MacDonald) who, after getting the only-metaphorical shaft from her boss Professor Night (Geoff McBride), decides to focus on her groundbreaking new theory about two of Shakespeare’s greatest tragedies, Othello and Romeo & Juliet. Her theory? That they aren’t tragedies at all, merely hastily adapted comedies that only need the addition of a helpful fool to change their dire outcomes. As soon as you can say ‘special lighting effect’, Constance suddenly finds herself transported into Shakespeare-land, finding herself smack dab inside one of Othello’s crucial scenes (and yes, yes, I know what you’re thinking, but I’m sure Ann-Marie MacDonald was probably not even aware of that classic MAN FROM ATLANTIS episode ‘the Naked Montague’ where Mark Harris washes up inside Romeo & Juliet.)
Like any good dimension traveller, Constance soon mucks up the flow, revealing Iago (Zach Counsil) for the villain he is before Othello (McBride again) can be pushed too far. This earns her the endearment of Desdemona (Sascha Cole, chanelling Xena Warrior Princess in a robust performance indeed), which has its own perils. She then moves on to R&J, where her attempts to keep the death toll down end up wreaking their own havoc on gender politics in fair Verona. Evading the sword of Tybalt and the advances of both Romeo (Counsil again) and Juliet (Pippa Leslie) keeps our Constance quite busy, especially as she continues her fervent search for her Fool at all costs.
DESDEMONA/JULIET is a fun and somewhat fluffy tale with some sneaky insight lurking beneath the laffs, and director Ann Hodges gets plenty of great action out of a mighty cast indeed. Margo delivers as stressed-out bookworm Constance, fighting and bluffing her way though a merrily fanfictionalized Shakespearean landscape. McBride and Counsil, two of O-town’s most beloved boy actors, are grand in their multiple roles…I’ll leave it to wiser heads than my own to debate the white Othello conundrum…and out tragic (or comedic..?) Heroines Pippa Leslie and Sascha Cole positively rock as Juliet and Desdemona. Shoutout too for a great set and very cool light and sound throughout. This is a merry romp filled with endlessly clever dialogue and boffo performances, and very worth watching, but get your tickets fast! Opening week was packed, and shows no signs of slowing down (lucky you, you have until the 15th!). So get your Shakespeare on, with a nice Canadian twist. Peace, love and soul,
Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)