Review: "The Merry Wives of Windsor" at Shakespeare and Company

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  • Angelica Potter, Contributing Critic - New England

Unlike many of William Shakespeare's plays, the audience didn't need to know much about "The Merry Wives of Windsor" or read the script prior to attending in order to fully enjoy the performance. The cast, directed by Kevin G. Coleman, had the audience chuckling within minutes of starting the show making it clear that the next two hours of this outlandish farce would be nothing short of entertaining.

Sir John Falstaff, dynamically played by Nigel Gore, hatches a scheme to trick the wives of Windsor, played by MaConnia Chesser (Meg Page) and Jennie M. Jadow (Alice Ford), in order to steal their money and make their husbands insanely jealous. Little does he know the wives figure out his intentions and devise their own plan for playful revenge. While Falstaff can often seem to be the bad guy of the play, Gore's performance had the audience sympathizing for Falstaff and all that he was being put through. Gregory Boover's portrayal of the foolish and fumbling Abraham Slender was outstanding and entirely contrary to his portrayal of Master Fenton, a dashing gentleman who, like Slender, is vying for the hand of Anne Page. As Mistress Quickly, Cloteal L. Horne was spirited and full of sass as she meddled in the lives of the other characters. One of the youngest members of the cast, Mary Shalaby, portrayed multiple characters (Nym/Rugby/Robin/Robert) and made clear character choices giving each their own personal quirk or physicality that distinguished each of them for the audience. The cast also includes Martin Jason Asprey (Frank Ford), Steven Barkhimer (George Page), Glenn Barrett (Dr. Caius), Jordan Cobb (Anne Page/Hostess), Tobias Goodman (Pistol/Simple/John), Madeleine Rose Maggio (Robert Shallow/Bardolph), and Bella Merlin (Sir Hugh Evans).

The simple and open set design by Jim Youngerman allowed the company full use of the garden and its many entrances and exits. There was a small wooden stage with two archways on either side of a tree. Extending from the stage was a raised area of mulch and a few steps that led into the audience. Well known music selections, from sound designer Amy Altadonna, played in-between scenes or while an actor was changing costumes from one character to another on stage in front from the audience.

Moments of hysterical chaos abounded during this production and the audience, many of whom stood cheering during the bows, thoroughly enjoyed themselves. © The production runs 2 hours and 20 minutes with a 15 minute intermission.  "The Merry Wives of Windsor" plays in the Roman Garden Theatre through September 1st. Shakespeare and Company is located at 70 Kemble St. in Lenox, Massachusetts. Tickets and more information can be found at www.shakespeare.org.

Photo Credit: Nigel Gore, Jennie M. Jadow, MaConnia Chesser. Photo by Nile Scott Studios. 2019

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