Check the Program: Goodnight Desdemona and The Crucible

Check the Program reviewed the College’s productions of Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet) and The Crucible.

Read the reviews below, or see them on the Check the Program facebook page.

What’s the difference between a tragedy and a comedy? What is the role of the eponymous fool in Shakespeare’s body of work, and why is Othello and Romeo & Juliet missing the fool? Could Desdemona and Juliet’s death be avoided if someone with common sense cleared the air before tragedy struck? All of these are questions rattling around in our beleaguered academic, Constance, as she attempts to crack the Gustav Manuscript, which promises to hold the truth of the True Author behind Shakesphere.
The Canadian College of Performing Arts’ (CCPA) production of “Good Night Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet)” embraces the absurd nature of Constance’s search for truth as she blunders through Othello and Romeo & Juliet, saving the child but ‘damning’ the Madonna in the process, as she puts it.
A shout out to Kelsey Launier who plays Constance. She absolutely embodies Constance’s frantic energy as she bumbles around the stage, gets carried away, and realizes the implications of the changes that she causes. Her reactions to Desdemona’s thirst for violence and Juliet’s declarations of love and death are hilarious.
I would have to say that some of the actors have some trouble projecting, and it can be difficult to hear their lines sometimes. But their physical acting holds up and I wouldn’t call it a deal-breaker.
How the actors interact with the stage is also really engaging. There’s a multistep set that allows for a lot of foreground and background action at the same time. Sometimes there are a few characters talking and not doing much else, so the rest of the cast is doing something on stage. While some of the scene transitions aren’t anything new, but add Constance screaming in the background for a solid minute, it adds a lot of the scene.
There’s a lot of heart to “Good Night Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet)”. It’s so easy to be swept up in the energy it brings, accept the absurd reality of magic manuscripts and just have fun with it. It’s so earnest you can’t help but enjoy the ride. That’s honestly the best way to describe this production. It’s fun! And honestly, in this final push before the holidays, a little bit of fun goes a long way.

The good news is that, despite having first debuted in 1953, Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible” has lost none of its power or passion, and still evokes a sense of righteous outrage in audiences today. The bad news is that, 65 years later, it’s still as frighteningly relevant to society as it was during the McCarthy “red scare” in which it was originally written.
Yet under the dynamic direction of CCPA’s managing artistic director Caleb Marshall, this engaging production of “The Crucible” wisely eschews the current American political swamp in favour of a future dystopia where fascism and evangelism rule over a fragmented agrarian population easily swayed by fear, persecution and mass hysteria. Not only does this dystopic setting provide rich fodder for Shannon Carmichael’s striking costume designs, R.J. Peters’ evocative lighting, Marshall’s cleverly simple projections and Michael Doherty’s eerie sound design, but it helps Miller’s ye-olde dialogue still (for the most part) seem relevant.
For those unfamiliar with this very familiar story, hysteria quickly sweeps the scene when a group of teen servants begin accusing villagers of being in league with the devil, and all reason goes out the window. Good people are executed, bad people profit, and the blind pursuit of power for its own sake grinds morality into the dust while “common vengeance writes the law”. Miller was loosely basing his McCarthyism metaphor on the Salem witch trials, but the play still stands as a brutal indictment of corruption and hypocrisy . . . and a reminder of the price good people continue to pay for being true to themselves.
Performed here by CCPA’s second-year students, the cast is anchored by strong work by Niah Davis (as seductive beguiler Abigail Williams), Fiona McCormack (the morally challenged Rev. Hale), Douglas Peerless (the fearful Rev. Parris) and Emily Anne Pugsley (the persecuted Elizabeth Proctor). While volume is never a good substitute for drama, the pinnacle scene where the court room erupts into chaotic frenzy is particularly strong, with Marshall’s 14-person erupting across the tiered stage. Also remarkably effective is the opening scene, where what appears to be a stereotypical gathering of “witches” in the woods quickly morphs into a boom-box fueled, alt-rock teenage mosh.
I take it as a good sign that the 16-year-old who accompanied me came away feeling outraged by this production—as well he should. With real fascism and false evangelism once again on the rise in America, the shocking relevance of this production is a sad comment on our 21st century reality.


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