The Merry Wives of Windsor, Shakespeare Theatre Company

In many, many ways, I'm the ideal audience member for The Merry Wives of Windsor, currently playing at the Shakespeare Theatre Company. I'm that nerd who's going to get excited to see a certain trio (Bardolph, Pistol, and Nym) come on stage. I relish the chance to see a new actor tackle Falstaff. Plus, I'd never actually read Merry Wives and so I didn't have any preconceived notions to fight through while watching director Stephen Rayne's production.

And yet.

 I'M SORRY. I hate being disappointed in theatre, really I do, but maybe I went into this production wanting to be impressed too much? All I know is that I kept waiting for there to be MORE. David Schramm does excellent work as Falstaff, but he's saddled with a version of Falstaff that has been robbed of his wit and grandeur. The underuse of Bardolph, Pistol, and Pym is criminal (Shakespeare, in the words of a great man, what, what, what were you doing?). But more than anything else, there are simply no emotional stakes whatsoever in this production. We know Falstaff will never sleep with the eponymous merry wives. We know that Anne Page will end up with the right man by the end. While Page's agony might amuse (and Kurt Rhoads does great work with the part), we know that his wife is perfectly faithful and that his angst is misspent and he'll get it sorted in the end.

 The best scenes of the entire production are easily those which feature Mistresses Page and Ford, played with relish by Veanne Cox and Caralyn Kozlowski, respectively. The scene in which they receive identical love letters from Falstaff is DELICIOUS and lit up the stage.

 The design team, led by set designer Dan Conway and costume designer Wade Laboissonniere, put in excellent work, creating an inviting and colorful vision of England just after World War I. Rayne's description of why he chose this setting is a little convoluted, but makes about as much sense as any other option, so... *shrug*

 This Merry Wives is perfectly pleasant, but ultimately falls flat. Theatregoers looking for a pleasant night will probably find what they're looking for, but I just can't recommend this one with any gusto.


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