Death becomes Nina Gilmour
Despite (maybe because of?) their innocence, Shakespearean characters Desdemona and Ophelia met nasty ends, the former strangled by her husband, Othello, the latter committing suicide in Hamlet’s Denmark.
In Death Married My Daughter, the two women return from “the undiscovered country” of the afterlife to examine their time on earth and establish who was to blame for their demise.
The piece grew out of a workshop in Shakespeare and Chekhov that creator/performers Nina Gilmour and Danya Buonastella did while studying with Philippe Gaulier in Paris. No surprise that the show is in the bouffon style, Gaulier’s forte.
“The bouffon is the outcast of society, returned to civilization from the swamps,” says Gilmour, who last appeared in Theatre Smith-Gilmour’s As I Lay Dying. “We know the character best as the fool in Shakespeare’s plays, someone who’s supposed to relieve the ruler of his cares. Unlike the clown, whose sole purpose is to make the audience laugh, the bouffon criticizes society by referring to the audience, pointing out the truths that people don’t want to hear.” But the bouffon has to work carefully. “The criticism has to be done beautifully, with charm and wit. If those qualities aren’t there, the risk at court could be death or, in the theatre, viewers ignoring what’s being said. You have to reel the audience in before revealing the truth.”
In Death Married My Daughter, co-created with and directed by Dean Gilmour and Michele Smith, Ophelia and Desdemona return from the swamps of death to see how the world has changed, or in some ways, remained the same.
“Theatrical figures who love an audience, they’ve come back to have a cathartic experience, to hold a ceremony that will help them deal with their pasts in which they were mistreated by lovers, fathers and other men.”
The work looks at male dominance, violence and abuse, physical and psychological. It’s not a period show, though, since contemporary figures like right-wingers Ann Coulter and Alex Jones and radical feminist Valerie Solanas are part of the women’s discussion.
“In true bouffon tradition, we don’t make our points in too pushy or heavy-handed a fashion. We do it with a twinkle in our eye, so the audience is initially off-balance, not sure what we intend.” JON KAPLAN From July 5 at Tarragon Mainspace.
Nina Gilmour (left) and Danya Buonastella resuscitate some dead characters to comment on male
dominance and violence.