Ann-Marie MacDonald is one of Canada’s greatest cultural assets (a fact that both Oprah and the governor general have agreed on), so when one of her plays is produced, it’s a good idea to grab a ticket. When the play in question is her classic comedy Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet), attendance is mandatory.
It’s a safe bet that the upcoming Hart House Theatre production will be a hot seller; the company’s been on a solid streak lately, with a strong production of Twelfth Night back in November. It’s great to see them close out their season with a Canadian play, headed by a powerhouse cast that includes Cydney Penner, Katie Ribout and Theatre Inamorata’s Lesley Robertson.
The award-winning play was written in 1990, has been mounted around the world, and plays out like Shakespeare remixed. The play-within-a-play-within-a-subconscious sees Constance, a modern-day, mousy academic, going through the rabbit hole (or in this case, a garbage can) into The Bard’s canon, where she encounters a host of familiar folks: Tybalt, Romeo, Iago and Othello. Of course, the best scenes are with Desdemona, Juliet and Constance, winding their way through everything from sex to identity to the F-word: feminism. “It is an intensely intelligent, joyful love letter to Shakespeare and a celebration of feminism,” director Carly Chamberlain says. “It’s over 25 years later, and this is still a big deal!”
Don’t come expecting passive heroines of yore. MacDonald’s superb writing allows these newly positioned characters to help Constance find her own identity. “What could be more important than that?” Chamberlain asks. “It is only with strong self-worth that we can truly be generous, loving and make our greatest contributions to the world -— free from fear. Of course, she goes on that journey within two hours on our stage. But for the rest of us, it’s a lifelong journey.”