The Merry Wives of Windsor was a riot! And the GreenStage ensemble made it look easy. Daniel Wood directed this exceptional production of the Shakesparean comedy, performed at the Volunteer Park amphitheatre and other Seattle parks through August 13. The audience laughed, cried out, gasped and applauded throughout this well-paced and thoroughly engaging performance. The rich dialogue layered in allusions to Falstaff’s enormous belly, gold-digging, keeping one’s honor, and healthy volumes of sexual innuendo.
Sir John Falstaff, played by Paul Shapiro, charmed us as a cash-hungry buffoon, shamelessly wooing a couple of rich married women so he could tap their fortunes. When Mistresses Page and Ford, played with dignity and grace by Erin Day and Nicole Vernon, discovered his duplicate love notes, they determined to seek hilarious revenge. With the masterminding and profiteering of Mistress Quickly, ingeniously played by Jessica Stepka, Falstaff courted both mistresses. He visited them and was taken in by one humbling prank after another. His passionate remorse about the greasy trash and soiled linen basket was the highlight of the play.
In a parallel plot line, a series of suitors vied for the the affections of the Pages’ daughter, Anne, sweetly played by Natalie Gress. Eric Hartley’s character, Master Page, pressed for his favorite marriage candidate for his daughter. This was Jared Holloway-Thomas’ character, Slender, who was puzzling and awkward. Alternately, Jeremy Adams’ Doctor Caius was schmaltzy to the hilt with a dripping French accent, pencil moustache and billowing purple satin robe on his thin frame. He just oozed repulsion. And then there was Fenton, the robust lover, whose performance was perfectly natural played by Helen Roundhill in women’s clothing.
In one of the tavern scenes, a romping, outlandish fight broke out between Caius and Sir Hugh Evans, played by Charles Ivan Gift. The choreography made a fresh, delightful spectacle.
The fairies of the forest even appeared, with audience participation, to give Falstaff his due. He wore a horned disguise and declared, “I am here a Windsor stag; and the fattest, I think, i’ the forest!” After a revelation by Master Ford, played by Chris MacDonald, the play concluded.
Curtain call was the perfect, simple complement to this sweet Summer play. The actors simply received their applause all at once and left the stage. This created a modest tone and ensemble feel. The tone for the whole production was lively, yet relaxed, and the performances never felt forced. Virtually every line was delivered in a crisp, clear, and utterly supported, demonstrative fashion. Not a moment of phoning it in on this cast.
Go see The Merry Wives of Windsor in one the parks around Seattle, and experience the light and laughter of a Shakespeare comedy in Summer.
The Merry Wives of Windsor
Dates: The Merry Wives of Windsor runs from July 8 through August 13, 2016 in parks all around the Seattle area.
Performance schedule is below, all dates and times are subject to change.
No tickets required, open lawn seating, donations encouraged