Spirited romp tells of thwarted prof’s redemption

Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet)

Described as “a clever, rollicking, feminist revisioning of Shakespeare’s Othello and Romeo and Juliet,” the award-winning play Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet) is in full dress rehearsals as the Driftwood Players theatre group gets it in shape for a three-week run at the Heritage Playhouse in Gibsons. 

Anne-Marie Mac-Donald’s comedic 1988 play, produced more than 40 times and for which she won a Governor General’s Award, tells the story of protagonist Constance Ledbelly, a Canadian literature professor. Rocked by a romantic and career crisis, Constance is drawn into a fantastic dream-like journey where she encounters a hilarious and energizing coterie of Shakespearean characters who ultimately help her learn to surmount her personal and professional torments. 

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Mary-Beth Pongrac, in her second play with the Driftwood troupe, plays Constance, while veteran actors Mac Dodge and Richard Austin play Othello and Iago, and Driftwood Theatre School alumni Gabe Ryan and Elizabeth Wood portray Romeo and Juliet. Othello’s wife, Desdemona, is played by Sunshine Coast newcomer Rozanne Pilbeam. 

“Desdemona is an incredibly fiery character,” Pilbeam said in an interview. “She understands Constance’s plight. Desdemona has also loved very deeply but she also is very much about standing up for herself and being her own boss. She really ignites that fire inside Constance and helps her realize that essentially, she has been walked over by the man she was infatuated with.” 

Pilbeam has worked mostly in television production behind the camera since emigrating from Australia to Vancouver nearly six years ago. She did a lot of theatre in high school and had hoped to pursue acting as a career. After moving to the Coast in May, she saw her chance to get back to it and successfully auditioned for Goodnight Desdemona. 

“I had forgotten how much fun theatre can be,” said Pilbeam, who exults in this opportunity to stretch as an actor by having to sing, dance and even sword-fight. “In my opinion, adults don’t get the opportunity to play much. This is my version of play and I get to share this with a group of people that I wouldn’t otherwise get to. It’s really exciting.” 

It’s also a lot of work. The small cast is called upon to play multiple roles. “I’m really challenged, but in a very positive way,” Pilbeam added. 

Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet) is directed by Troy Demmitt, with sets designed by Peter Borgmann and Gerry Watson. Live music is performed by Carmen Marcuso on accordion and Noah Ord on violin. 

It runs Oct. 24 to 27, Nov. 1 to 3, and Nov. 7 to 10. Tickets are available online at share-there.com, MELOmania in Roberts Creek, Blackberry Shoppe in Gibsons, and Strait Music in Sechelt.

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