note: entire contents copyright 2005 by Carl A. Rossi
Chorus; Soldier; Ghost … Anna Brown
Constance Ledbelly … Peri Chouteau
Othello; Professor Night; Nurse … Jim Jordan
Iago … Eric Propp
Romeo … Zach W. Davis
Tybalt … Jonathan Sacramone
Mercutio … Hugh Beckett
Student; Juliet … Chris Chanyasulkit
Ramona; Desdemona … Kaili Turner
Had Ann-Marie MacDonald’s GOODNIGHT DESDEMONA, GOOD MORNING JULIET been enchanting fare, I wouldn’t have minded it being the third Shakespearean send-up I’ve seen in the past several months but it isn’t and I do. Constance Ledbelley, a mousey, love-starved academic, states in her thesis that OTHELLO and ROMEO AND JULIET were originally comedies that Shakespeare turned into tragedies by removing the Wise Fool who could have exposed the respective plot devices of a handkerchief and a delayed wedding announcement, thus making everything end happily. Constance gets to test her theory when she falls into both tragedies and sets about rearranging things, becoming the Wise Fool, herself. The switcheroos include Desdemona (now a fierce, black warrior) being egged on by Iago to murder Constance, and Romeo and Juliet each falling in love with Constance whom they believe to be a boy. It is all terribly academic and self-congratulating and is not all that far from any number of directorial takes on the Bard’s own scripts, these days.
I might have been amused had the Footlight Club production been cast with Shakespearean actors who could do with Ms. MacDonald’s script what the Harlem Globetrotters can do with a basketball, but aside from two exceptions it has been cast with young, green talent and directed by Lillie Palmer to play only to the groundlings, headed by Peri Chouteau’s relentlessly perky, twitchy Constance who would have been funnier had she been more solemn and egghead-ish. (The rough-and-tumble horseplay soon had me fearing for the actors’ bones.) Anna Brown opens and closes the show as a mysterious figure in gossamer, displaying a fairytale lightness and delight in words that underscores all the clumping going on about her (her Yorick, cackling in his grave, is also good), and Kaili Turner as a strapping Desdemona declaims handsomely --- if reined in and faithfully guided, she could become a true Shakespearean.