Tour Theater Review: THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR (Shakespeare’s Globe at the Broad)

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by Tony Frankel on October 17, 2010

in Theater-Los Angeles,Theater-New York,Tours


A delightful, rollicking, and imaginative production of The Merry Wives of Windsor, famous for Falstaff (the Renaissance Homer Simpson, if you will), appeared at Shakespeare’s Globe in London and, through the magic of benefactors and angels in the art world, has arrived in North America; more specifically (and luckily) for us, in Santa Monica – but only for eight performances, so buy your tickets now (for our New York readers, Merry will play the Schimmel Center October 28 – November 7).

With Globe Theatre productions presented as they were originally intended, there is virtually no set. At the gorgeous 499-seat Broad Stage, where every seat is good, designer Janet Bird reinterprets the Globe with Tudor-style timber and a turntable, which rotates for each scene change. The accomplished Globe musicians sit atop the set, playing Nigel Hess’ original Elizabethan-style music (the song, “My Love is Fair,” adapted from a poem by George Peel, is guaranteed to melt your heart, especially as sung by the radiant and lovely Ceri-Lyn Cissone (as Anne Page) and Gerard McCarthy (as the amorous Fenton). I have never hawked a show’s CD before, but the music is available at or iTunes.

An exultant and rapturous account of each of the seventeen players is called for, but may overwhelm you, dear reader; suffice it to say that there is not one sour note recalled from any of the thespians on board(s). Christopher Benjamin (Falstaff), Serena Evans (Meg Page), and Sarah Woodward (Alice Ford) are revelatory in that they perform director Christopher Luscombe’s bawdy, fluid, and sit-com action with Merry Wives of Windsor nary an inauthentic moment. It is also most refreshing to see a Shakespeare play where middle-class women win the day.

This gorgeous production will also satisfy lovers of delightful slapstick: imagine Falstaff, who has the nerve to seek romantic assignations with two married women (he uses the same letter of intent for each!) actually showing up at the home of Mistress Ford. He wears purple tights, cranberry shoes, burgundy sash, gold cap and tan bodice (again, courtesy of designer Janet Bird); Mistress Page appears and the two women act out a predetermined plot about Mistress Ford’s husband returning home while Falstaff hides behind the arras. When the overly jealous Frank Ford (the expressive Andrew Havill) actually does show up, inspired zaniness ensues; Falstaff ends up in a stench-filled laundry basket and thrown into the Thames. Just watching the servants, Gregory Gudgeon and Paul Woodson, try to move the lard-filled laundry is worth the price of admission.

merry wives of windsor

My readers know that I am not a big fan of plot revelation in my reviews, and I’m enthralled to say that you do not need to read this play before you see it. These actors are masters of interpretation and vocal expertise, so you will have no problem understanding the language: even Philip Bird as Dr. Caius, a suitor to Anne Page, spews out the Elizabethan dialogue in a French accent with side-splitting results.

Funny, enchanting, beautiful, and satisfying; this is a Merry Wives of Windsor for the ages – all ages.

merry wives of windsor

photos by John Tramper

The Merry Wives of Windsor
Shakespeare’s Globe
The Broad Stage in Santa Monica
ends on October 24, 2010
for tickets, visit The Broad

then plays Pace University in New York
October 28 – November 7, 2010
for more info, visit Shakespeare’s Globe

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