A scene from "Goodnight Sweetheart, Goodnight."

Review: Local Playwright Scores with 'Goodnight Sweetheart, Goodnight'

Will Demers READ TIME: 2 MIN.

The Wilbury Theatre Group has always been committed to bringing new works by local artists, and their latest offering is absolutely no exception. Playwright-in-residence Darcie Dennigan, along with composer Niki Healy, have created a powerful work inspired by the life and painting of Italian Baroque painter Artemisia Gentileschi, who was born in 1593 and was the eldest child of Tuscan painter Orazio Gentileschi. Following in her father's footsteps, she became a respected artist during an era when women had few opportunities to do so.

"Goodnight Sweetheart, Goodnight" is a one-act musical featuring original songs by Healy. Denningan centers the story on the rape of Artemisia as a young woman by a family friend. A four member '60s-inspired "Girl Group," featuring Jennifer Mischley, Sophie Appel, Beth Alianiello, and Daraja Hinds and commentary provided by Christine Treglia, sing songs that start with a pop sensibility and slowly descend into remarkably dark punk-inspired tunes.

The fact that the young artist painted strong women from mythological and biblical stories provides a background for the fact that women of her time could not fight back against oppression by men. Here in "Goodnight," our ladies sing about their dreams and desires to seek vengeance, and, even as cords were wrapped around Artemisia's fingers during her own trial, eventually crushing them, she continued to speak the truth and refused to give any false evidence. Healy's songs have an almost "Rocky Horror" sensibility, yet here the villains aren't aliens; they are any man who has belittled, propositioned, or raped women, and gotten away with their abhorrent behavior.

There is also a men's chorus, led by Brien Lang (Wilbury's "The Fish" Pirates of Penzance") and Jason Quinn (The Gamm's "Sweat" "An Octoroon"), with band members Kavi Gaspar on keyboards (Wilbury debut), Sophie Grosswendt on bass ("Fun Home" Wilbury), Teddy Lytle on drums ("Rescue! Or the Fish" "a. Dick. ted."), and Dave Rabinow on guitar ("Indecent " "The Humans"). Mischley has been seen at Wilbury in "Fun Home" and "Dance Nation," among many others, and is a member of the RI Ukulele Armada. Appel has previously appeared at Trinity Rep in "A Christmas Carol" and "A Midsummer Night's Dream.")

Beth Alianiello has been seen in Wilburys "You got Older" and "Cabaret," and Daraja Hinds in "Lifted" and "Fun Home." Treglia as Mary Gerrard (who is an American art historian) has been seen in many productions at Wilbury, as well. Author Denningan is a writer and poet, and Healy is a Rhode Island performing arts publicist and writer/composer. "Goodnight" is a powerful and entertaining night of theater, and illustrates just how important Rhode Island theater and arts can be.

"Goodnight Sweetheart, Goodnight" is currently running through June 11th at Wilbury Theatre at the WaterFire Arts Center 475 Valley Street. For information or tickets call 401-400-7100 or visit www.thewilburygroup.org.

by Will Demers

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