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Turning the Bard upside down

“Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet)”
Feb 21 – March 2 at 8 p.m. – 2 p.m. on Sunday
Lincoln Hall
$3 preview tonight only
after that: – $6 students, $7 faculty & $8 public
503-725-3307 for more info

Wouldn’t it be strange if the road to self-discovery could be found by entering the worlds of Shakespeare’s “Othello” and “Romeo and Juliet”?

The journey could include quarreling with a rambunctious Desdemona, becoming buddies with Othello and kissing Romeo and Juliet, only to find them both in love with you.

The theater arts department’s production of “Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet),” will take you on such a journey. “Desdemona” is a well-acted, creatively produced production that entertains and makes you think about life, identity, the relative ambiguity of gender, academia and Shakespearean conventions (which are actually made fun).

“This play is about identity,” said director and Assistant Theater Professor Karin Magaldi-Unger. “It illuminates the power of art. From art, you can find out about who you are in unexpected ways. I think it has something for everybody.”

“Desdemona’s” protagonist, Constance Ledbelly (finely played by Christy Hernquist), is a mousy assistant professor who indeed finds answers to her questions in unexpected ways.

Constance is working on her doctoral dissertation in Shakespearean studies at Queen’s College. She’s walked on by students and co-workers and in love with a professor who treats her like dirt.

One evening she’s literally transported (in a very clever way) to the world of Shakespeare’s “Othello.” She had been diving rather deeply into the play and felt like she was on the verge of some major Bard breakthroughs.

She conveniently lands in a scene that she was analyzing. Being in it gives her a whole new perspective. She can even converse in iambic pentameter.

She immediately changes the outcome of the play, and is befriended by the characters. She begins a tumultuous but educational relationship with Desdemona.

Learning a great deal about her academic questions and herself, Constance is then transported to the middle of Romeo and Tibalt’s classic quarrel. She settles the quarrel and discovers Romeo and his merry men think she’s a he.

Meanwhile, all is not well with the horny and turtle-loving Romeo and Juliet. Things get worse when they both develop crushes on the “male” Constance.

Gender identity is twisted and toyed with. Much confusion and hilarity ensues and Constance gets closer yet to her quest for self-discovery and literary answers.

To complicate matters further (and interrupt a kiss between Constance and Juliet) Desdemona arrives. The interaction between the three women brings some final resolution to our confused hero.

This play does what any good play should. It entertains, holds your interest, and inspires thought. There are slow moments, but it actually moves along rather quickly. There’s definitely enough action, movement and bearded nurses talking about “maiden heads” to keep the eyelids open.

As reality is toyed with, the outcome is eagerly awaited and difficult to predict. When the cast has danced off the stage, inevitable thoughts about life, love, gender and good old Shakespeare should fuel conversation.

For those of you who don’t want to ever see a Shakespeare play again, don’t be alarmed. This play offers a whole new entertaining take on the classic works. The thematic content is great and the right amount of humor and modern conventions balance the Bard out. Fans of Shakespeare will also appreciate the treatment and some of the clever details.

Kudos to the theater arts department for turning a great script into a well-directed, acted and produced play. “Goodnight Desdemona” begins with a preview tonight at a discounted rate and continues this weekend and next. Tickets are available through the PSU Box Office at 510 S.W. Hall or Ticketmaster. For more information call 503-725-3307.