Merry Wives of Windsor

Actor Aled Davies (as Falstaff) attempts to woo Laura Welsh Berg (as Mrs. Alice Ford), one of the wise wives of Windsor,(Photo by Roger Mastroianni)
The Merry Wives of Windso
r may tickle your fancy@ Hanna Theatre 9/27/14

According to legend, Shakespeare wrote The Merry Wives of Windsor now playing at the Hanna Theater in Playhouse Square because Queen Elizabeth asked him to show Falstaff  (from Henry IV) in love. So Shakespeare resurrected the old windbag and set him into a domestic comedy


How well does this idea work?


In the capable hands of the whole cast and crew of this Great Lakes Theater production it worked very well. A saving grace to the dreadful plot (full of bullying and making fun of the old fat soldier) came from the freedom director Tracy Young took to change the material (Shakespeare would have done the same if he’d lived in Cleveland in 2014). She set the story in Hollywood in the 1940s (an excuse to add allusions to films and dance of the era), plus sprinkled in a few local references to “translate” the Falstaff story.


Aled Davies’s Sir John Falstaff pranced about with blusterous comic display, growing fatter (it seemed) by the minute as he pursued the voluptuous whipped-cream loving Mrs. Alice Ford (Laura Welsh Berg) and the vixenish Mrs. Margaret Page (Jodi Dominick). What set the two women off on a course of revenge? Why that Falstaff propositioned both of them with identical letters, bothering only to change the names. (Ah vanity, thy name is woman?)  In contrast, the traditional, more wholesome romance between Miss Anne Page (Clare Howes Eisentrout) and Mr. Fenton (Sam Wolf) offered a welcome excuse for some great dancing and a slam-bang finale involving the whole cast in a full-scale “goblin festival.”


The ensemble cast provided oft-dizzing interactions as they laced one piece of action to another. It included Kyle Jean Baptiste (a dignified Host of the Garter), Tom Ford (a Frenchified Dr. Caius), Keri Renee Fuller (Nurse Rugby), Ian Gould (Mr. George Page), Mickey Ryan (Simple), Brian Sutherland (Shallow), Alex Syiek (Pistol), M.A. Taylor (Hugh Evans), Pedar Benson Bate (Slender), Lynn Robert Berg (Mr. Frank Ford), Stephen Mitchell Brown (Bardolph), Brandyn Day (Nym), Owen Desberg (William Page), Tracee Patterson (Madame Quickly), and Katie Proulx (Falstaff’s quick-stepping assistant).  


One of the cutest dance classes ever featured youngsters Kayleigh Hahn, Leah Jennings, Mia Knight, Lisa Nazelli, and Cameron Nelson.


Rick Martin’s inventive, classy, plain-yet-complicated set design delighted and kept the action flowing. Even when one tires of poor Falstaff falling for one mean trick after another the set (and puzzling over “how did they do that?”) keeps one amused.


Bottom line: If you’ve just seen the history plays and you know that Falstaff stabbed a corpse and claimed credit for the “kill,” then you might think he deserved what he got. This odd play so well-produced here is also one of those Shakespeare comedies that’s likely better if one buys a drink at the bar first.


Photo:

Actor Aled Davies (as Falstaff) attempts to woo Laura Welsh Berg (as Mrs. Alice Ford), one of the wise wives of Windsor, in the Great Lakes Theater production of Shakespeare's uproarious battle of the sexes "The Merry Wives of Windsor" at the

Hanna Theatre, PlayhouseSquare which runs through November 2. (Photo by Roger Mastroianni)


The Merry Wives of Windsor plays through Nov. 2 at the Hanna Theater, Playhouse Square. For tickets call 216-241-6000.
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