Parody provides a fresh and funny take on the Bard
Notre Dame Film, Television and Theatre opened its 2000-2001 mainstage season on Oct. 4 with playwright Ann MacDonald's "Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet)." The performance shook Washington Hall with laughter as a witty script combined Shakespearean drama with modern slapstick comedy.
William Shakespeare's "Othello" and "Romeo and Juliet" were transformed into parodies addressing everything from women's rights to homosexuality. From a cross-dressing Romeo and Juliet to a bloodthirsty Desdemona, this reflection on Shakespeare was a far cry from any interpretation raised in an English lecture.
The play weaves the story of a disgruntled assistant professor, Constance Ledbelly, on her quest to prove "Othello" and "Romeo and Juliet" were originally comedies disrupted by unfortunate endings. Constance is transported by an act of alchemy into the Shakespearean plays. Astonished by her sudden entrance into the plays, Constance declares students had either "spiked her Coors Light" or she was definitely "on an acid trip."
She immerses herself in the script revealing a Desdemona obsessed with war and a Romeo and Juliet who live in disgust of one another. Constance succeeds in preventing Romeo and Juliet's suicide and Othello's murder of Desdemona.
The play was full of skilled sword fights, designed by Tony Lawton, and comic bedroom scenes between dynamic characters. Cast member Liz Cenova said, "The cast really had intense energy and bonded working on the swordplay."
The elaborate costuming heightened the appeal of these well-rehearsed scenes designed by Richard Donnelly. Creative footwear and decorous hats complemented the sparkling green, gold and silver tights and ornamented shirts. Donnelly's design of Juliet's lacy off-white dressing gown and Desdemona's striking black and red dress enhanced the characters' stage presence. "The costuming really empowered me as an actress," said Conova.
Professor Wendy Aarons of the Notre Dame Theatre Department made her directorial debut with a dynamic cast of five actors. Cenova stated, "Wendy provided a great balance between directing and allowing us artistic freedom." In preparation for these performances, the dedicated cast rehearsed over 30 hours a week. These five versatile actors portrayed 16 characters throughout the play.
Saint Mary's junior, Liz Cenova, portrayed Desdemona as a strong, sassy and sexy woman whose presence dominated the stage. Cenova's other roles included Ramona and Mercutio. Theatre major Kathy Koch, a Welsh Hall senior, humored the audience with her portrayal of Constance's development from a passive professor to Juliet's liberated lesbian lover. Katie Sise, a senior theatre major, gave an impressive performance of a suicidal, sex-crazed Juliet.
Mark Scheibmeir, a Stanford Hall freshman, delivered a riveting performance of Othello and a hysterical presentation of Juliet's well-endowed nurse. He also undertook the role of Tybalt and Claude Night. Senior theatre major JJ Area, had the audience doubled over in laughter, with his depiction of a whining, cross-dressing Romeo. Area also played an embittered Iago and the ghost.
This talented cast had intense energy on the stage and articulately delivered their lines throughout the performance. They even managed to stay in perfect character despite the roar of the audience's laughter. The play also included the melodious singing efforts of Liz Cenova and Katie Sise in a humorous rendition of Desree's "Kissing You" from Leonardo DiCaprio and Clare Dane's movie, "Romeo and Juliet." All cast members joined in song and entertaining Latin dance at the finale of the play.
The attractive setting, designed by Bruce Auerbach, was flanked with two opposing sets of off-white stairs joined by an ivy-wrapped balcony. Kevin Dreyer designed the pyrotechnics and lighting for the play. Todd Borough designed the eerie voice of the ghost and other sound effects.
After watching this exceptional performance, audiences went home with a hearty laugh and a radical new perspective of the epic Shakespearean tragedies.
All Scene Stories for Monday, October 9, 2000