STORY: Sir John Falstaff needs some funds to maintain his swanky standard of living, so he concocts a scheme to woo two wealthy ladies, Mistress Ford and Mistress Page, as a way to get to the fortunes of their respective husbands. Sir John has an inflated opinion of himself, and a sloppy way of pursuing the ladies, to whom he sends virtually identical love letters. When Mistress Ford and Mistress Page compare their notes, they devise their own plan to make Sir John look the fool. Master Ford also learns of Falstaff’s intentions, and concocts his revenge against the would-be lothario.
Meanwhile, Mistress Page and Master Page disagree on the proper suitor for their daughter, Anne. The former decrees that the visiting French physician, Doctor Caius, should be Anne’s husband, while Master Page prefers the simple-minded Slender. Anne, though, has the amiable Fenton in mind.
HIGHLIGHTS: The Merry Wives of Windsor, with its large cast of players engaged in sundry hijinks, offers plenty of opportunities for humor. Director Todd Pieper takes way too long to get his interpretation moving into high gear, but nonetheless he has assembled a cast that often displays its comic mettle.
OTHER INFO: A handful of players stand out: Ben Ritchie gives one of his best performances to date as the suspicious Master Ford. Suki Peters and Jamie Marble both shine as the mirthful title characters, each in her way fully and deftly shaping comic opportunities. Emily Adams provides a delicious turn as officious Mistress Quickly, servant to Doctor Caius, who takes command of situations with various characters with equal aplomb and misapplied determination.
Unfortunately, the production suffers from myriad problems. Notably, the first act seems flat as Pieper floods the engine of the comic machine. Pacing improved substantially in the second act on opening night, perhaps indicating that future performances will be running on high octane throughout.
Casting is problematic as well. While the aforementioned performers shine in their portrayals, several other parts go wanting. Martin Casey brings neither false bravado nor cockiness nor pomposity to the role of Falstaff, and Chris Jones is muted in the role of Master Page.
There’s comedy to be had here, but too often it takes the diligence of a perseverant miner to find it.
RATING: A 3.5 ON A SCALE OF 1-TO-5
VENUE: GRANDEL THEATRE, 3610 GRANDEL SQUARE
DATES: JULY 22, 23, 24
CONTACT 361-5664 OR BROWNPAPERTICKETS.COM