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The Merry Wives of Windsor ~ Folger Shakespeare Theatre

Jordan Wright
January 23, 2020 

For his staging of The Merry Wives of Windsor, Director Aaron Posner adapts this delectable comedy about sexual jealousy to the 20th C… specifically the burgeoning hippie styles and Mod culture of 1972.  It’s the perfect imaginary moment.  The Women’s Liberation movement was in full swing and the times they were a’changin’.  How prophetic Shakespeare was as we look back to the future to find Falstaff, still the swaggering, conniving rogue, now clad in fringe jacket and tie-dyed, “Make Love Not War” t-shirt with his inept band of cohorts togged in bell bottoms and leisure suits.  Get the picture?

Falstaff (Brian Mani) uses his brazen skills of seduction on a surprised Mrs. Ford (Ami Brabson). – Photos by Cameron Whitman Photography

Falstaff’s targets are Mistress Ford and Mistress Page who are quickly on to the antics of this corpulent seducer and set a course to entrap him in his thieving schemes, much to the initial confusion of their husbands.  “Wives may be merry, and yet honest too,” says Mistress Page with a wink and a nod.  The parallel plot to marry off the sweet Anne Page to a serious of unsuitable suitors – Dr. Caius and the curiously impotent Abraham Slender – adds to the overall pandemonium.  Because both sides can play at this game, amirite?

Fenton (Dante Robert Rossi) consoles his true love, Anne Page (Linda Bard) – Cameron Whitman Photography

Notable cast members include Brain Mani as the devilish Falstaff; Eric Hissom exquisitely channeling John Cleese as the hapless, exploited husband; Kate Eastwood Norris adopting a Coen Brothers Mid-Western accent as the pill-popping Mistress Quickly; and Cody Nickell, as the French-accented, macho man, Dr. Caius, whose slimy ways will keep you in stitches with each and every line.

Mine Host (Louis E. Davis, left) cozies up to Dr. Caius (Cody Nickell). – Cameron Whitman Photography

Tony Cisek’s set of Mondrian-inspired color blocks paired with Devon Painter’s wild and crazy costumes and Dramaturg Michele Osherow’s smattering of hipster phraseology, keeps us firmly fixed in the free-wheeling era, all the while adhering to the original tale of wives in cahoots to humiliate the dishonorably lecherous, hilariously dissolute, conniver.  Backgrounded by Matthew Nielson’s scene-transitioning groovy soundtrack, to keep us in the mood.

Slender (Brian Reisman, left) and Justice Shallow (Tommy A. Gomez) try to understand Windsor’s local glergyman, the Welsh-accented Sir John Hughes (Todd Scofield). – Cameron Whitman Photography

Highly recommended.  A marvelous cast who bring the characters to life with sharp-as-a-needle comic acuity.

With Regina Aquino as Mrs. Page; Linda Bard as Anne Page/Pistol; Ami Brabson as Mrs. Ford; Louis E. Davis as Mine Host; Danielle Gallo as Bardolph/J. Rugby/John; Tommy A. Gomez as Justice Shallow; Brian Reisman as Abraham Slender; Dante Robert Rossi as Nym/Fenton; Todd Scofield as Sir Hugh Evens; Tyee Tilghman as Page; and Derrick Truby as Simple/Robert.

The cast of Folger Theatre’s The Merry Wives of Windsor! – Cameron Whitman Photography

Through March 1st at the Folger Theatre at the Folger Shakespeare Library, 201 East Capitol Street, SE, Washington, DC 20003.   For tickets and information call 202.544.7077 or visit www.Folger.edu/theatre.

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