November 29, 2022
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Satire in the park: Local production reimagined Shakespeare tragedies | Arts & Entertainment

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Was the Spokane Shakespeare Society’s production of “Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet)” worth seeing? That is the question. 

The Spokane Shakespeare Society, in partnership with Spokane Parks and Recreation, put on a play titled “Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet)” by Anne-Marie Macdonald from Sept. 8-25.  

The play was initially showing at Riverfront Park before moving to the Duncan Gardens in Manito Park. The production is a humorous take on the two classic Shakespearean dramas “Othello” and “Romeo and Juliet.” 

The Spokane Shakespearean Society had a small cast for the play, consisting of only six people but managed to have multiple actors perform as several characters. 

The show follows Constance Ledbelly, an assistant professor at Queen’s University, who is initially working on a research project to prove that both of the aforementioned Shakespearean works are actually comedies, despite being commonly labeled as tragedies. 

Eventually, Ledbelly finds herself literally immersed in the world of both “Othello” and “Romeo and Juliet,” interfering with the plots of both tragedies and ultimately preventing many of the deaths from the original works from happening. 

The play itself was designed to cater to Shakespeare lovers. While the main character made use of contemporary language and slang, the characters of the “Shakespeare world” make use of early-modern English, the language that Shakespeare wrote in; this facet of the play makes it particularly hard for younger audiences and those who haven’t read or seen “Othello” or “Romeo and Juliet” to understand exactly what is happening. 

Regardless, the play still has humorous elements fit for audience members of all ages and backgrounds, mostly coming from Ledbelly’s lines and the characters’ comedic blocking. It is also highly commendable that each of the cast members were able to memorize their lines, considering that most of the play is in Shakespearean English. 

The simplistic stage and minimal props allowed the actors to carry the performance; instead of focusing on elaborate costume designs or visual effects, the audience was able to pay attention to the characters and their respective arcs. 

One quarrel that I have with the show has nothing to do with the cast and more to do with the synopsis of the play itself. The premise that the lead character was trying to research how “Othello” was a comedy struck me as odd because when I read “Othello”, I understood much of the tragedy being driven by racism. Othello was sabotaged because he was seen as undeserving of Desdemona and his high-ranking position largely because of his race. 

This could very well be attributed to the fact that the play was written almost 40 years ago, and ultimately the Spokane Shakespeare Society didn’t portray Othello as being Black, which took race out of the question for the audience. Still, I found it odd that the play focused on Othello, as opposed to some other tragedy that could’ve been more easily satirized. 

Overall, I thought that the cast did a great job. From my perspective, a standout character was Constance Ledbelly, played by Abby Constable, as she was able to carry the show with high energy while simultaneously memorizing pages of dialogue. 

The Spokane Shakespeare Society additionally did an amazing job at making its shows accessible to people in the area, as they were free and located in public parks. 

The production itself proved that for audiences, both young and old, a reimagination of Shakespeare has more to offer than tragedy. 

Kaelyn New is a news editor. Follow her on Twitter: @kaelyn_new.



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