IN Review: The Merry Wives of Windsor
“Why, then the world ’s mine oyster, Which I with sword will open,” says Pistol to Falstaff in Act II of The Merry Wives of Windsor. Those words never rang truer as Delaware Shakespeare does just that in bringing this play to life for their Summer Festival series at Rockwood Park.
Originally, published in the early 1600s, The Merry Wives of Windsor is a vehicle for one of Shakespeare’s most infamous characters, Sir John Falstaff. The character of Falstaff, of course, had previously been featured in Henry IV, Part 1 and Part 2. It is said that Queen Elizabeth loved the character so much that she demanded Shakespeare write Falstaff into a comedy and show him in love. Thus, we have this play in which Falstaff, full of bravado and booze, sets out to woo two married women in order to gain access to their husband’s wealth. All the while, three other suitors make their play for a young lass whose heart belongs to only one. And so, as they say, comedy ensues.
Breathing life into Falstaff, and making his Delaware Shakespeare debut, is Bradley Mott who plays this part with great ease and expert timing. His ability to be both loveable and loathed captured my attention and that of my fellow audience members. The titular Wives of Windsor are cunningly portrayed by Amy Frear (Mistress Ford) and Brett Ashley Robinson (Mistress Page). Gregory Isaac channels both Jimmy Stewart and Art Carney as “Ed Norton” in his fragile and frantic portrayal of Master Ford. Satchel Williams and Anthony Diaz who play Anne Page and Fenton, respectively, bring forth the heart of this show with their earnest characterization of young love. Another standout performance comes from Jocelyn Kilpatrick who pulls double-duty as Falstaff’s impulsive servant, Nym and the dull-witted Rugby, servant to Dr. Caius (David Pica).
A simple but extremely effective set, designed by Lance Kniskern, helps transport the audience into this Elizabethan farce. Kniskern uses clotheslines full of linens as set-dressing that also serve as windows for each of the interior locations or picket fences, while vinyl window shades are used doors. The production makes excellent use of its outdoor setting with entrances and scenes happening in the audience and behind the main playing area. Dominic Chacon’s lighting design makes excellent use of practical lighting on stage and is even aided by the natural sunlight streaming through the park. Costume design by Leigh Ivory Clark Paradise helps shape our understanding of each character through contemporary and relatable ensembles. Original music by Michael Hahn helps to move the performance along and was effortlessly played by the incredibly talented Amber Kowal on the upright bass.
Overall, this brilliant play is great for a romantic date-night or a fun-filled evening with family and friends. You’re invited to bring a picnic fit for royalty—a group in front of me had such a delicious spread that it took my all not to swoop down upon their cocktail shrimp, cheese plate, fried chicken, and wine like a seagull divebombing fallen beach fries along the boardwalk.
Speaking of the picnic-style atmosphere, Del Shakes recommends that show-goers bring a blanket or a collapsible chair to enjoy this outdoor romp. There is some reserved seating available, but they go pretty quickly and cost a bit more at $42. In retrospect, I should have done what many of my fellow audience members did and bring both a blanket and chair to take full advantage of this Shakespeare in the park experience. In case you forgot, or didn’t have time to pack provisions, Del Shakes offers concessions including glasses of wine and prepacked sandwiches from Janssen’s Market. Also, be sure to pack lots of ice-cold water (or beer), your favorite sunblock, and some bug spray in case those little critters get hungry too.
Be on the lookout for a few Shakespearean fun facts as you make your way along the paved path from the parking lot to the performance venue (fun fact: The Merry Wives of Windsor is Shakespeare’s only comedy set in his own time). The Delaware Shakespeare College Apprentices also provide some delightful preshow entertainment and Shakespearean education. These plucky young actors offer a short overview of the show by way of modern devices and vernacular. They also perform their rendition of the “Cellblock Tango” from Chicago the Musical which I believe they call the “Falstaff Tango.”
Delaware Shakespeare has pulled out all the stops for this production, which is sure to be a delight for all audiences. The Merry Wives of Windsor runs through July 28, 2019, at Rockwood Park and totes a run-time of two and a half hours. Tickets range from $18-$22. Children 5 and under receive free admission for each performance. Children 12 and under admitted free on Sundays – with a paid adult admission. Please, visit www.DelShakes.org for tickets and more information.
Editor's Note: Thanks to the weather, DelShakes has added a NEW date on Tuesday, July 23rd!
Filed Under: Arts & Entertainment