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Washington DC by Susan Berlin

The Merry Wives of Windsor

Also see Susan's review of The Normal Heart

A Separate Peace
Caralyn Kozlowski, Michael Mastro, Kurt Rhoads and Veanne Cox
Amiable is the word that comes to mind regarding the Shakespeare Theatre Company's production of The Merry Wives of Windsor. Director Stephen Rayne wants to focus on the economic and sociological implications of William Shakespeare's domestic comedy, but by so doing he distracts from the humor of Sir John Falstaff (David Schramm) and his pursuit of two married women for lust and money.

Rayne explains that Merry Wives is a document of a time when fairly constant wars had drained the English economy, meaning that returning soldiers—including members of the nobility—had limited access to money. At the same time, the prosperous merchant class was in the ascendant. Thus, Falstaff pursues Mistress Page (Veanne Cox) and Mistress Ford (Caralyn Kozlowski) for access to their husbands' finances as much as for themselves, and at least two of the three suitors courting young Anne Page (Alyssa Gagarin) are strongly attracted to her dowry.

The director adds to his conceit by setting the production in 1919: another time when England was financially strapped in the aftermath of war, and the middle class (specifically its women) was driving changes in society. Daniel Lee Conway's sumptuous set and Wade Laboissonniere's luxurious costumes incorporate the sinuous lines of the Art Nouveau and Arts and Crafts styles, along with the faux Tudor design of the Garter Inn and a show curtain worthy of a music hall from the period.

The problem with focusing on financial intrigue is that—unlike such other Shakespeare plays as The Taming of the Shrew and The Merchant of Venice—the play doesn't depend on that; it's primarily about the interplay among the characters. Falstaff never suspects that the two wives might compare notes, and it's vanity rather than penury that drives him to one seduction attempt after another.

The production does benefit from a strong cast. In addition to Schramm, who dominates every scene in which he appears, Floyd King makes the most of his role as a Welsh minister; Tom Story is delightful as a pompous French doctor with an absurd Inspector Clouseau accent; Michael Mastro is Kozlowski's relentlessly jealous husband, a pinched-looking fellow in a black-and-white checked suit and glasses; and Michael Keyloun plays young Slender as if one can almost see the vacancy behind his eyes.

Shakespeare Theatre Company
The Merry Wives of Windsor June 12th - July 15th
By William Shakespeare
Robert Shallow, a justice of the peace: Jarlath Conroy
Abraham Slender, a young gentleman, his relative: Michael Keyloun
Peter Simple, Slender's servant: Matthew McGee
Fenton, a gentleman, former companion of the Prince of Wales: Mark J. Sullivan
Sir Hugh Evans, a Welsh parson and schoolteacher: Floyd King
Doctor Caius, a French physician: Tom Story
Mistress Quickly, his housekeeper: Amy Hohn
John Rugby, his servant: Michael Gregory
Host, of the Garter Inn: Jimmy Kieffer
Sir John Falstaff, a Knight of the Garter, lodging at the inn: David Schramm
"Corporal" Bardolph, Falstaff's follower, later an employee at the inn: Bev Appleton
"Ancient" Pistol, Falstaff's follower: James Konicek
"Corporal" Nym, Falstaff's follower: Hugh Nees
George Page, a merchant: Kurt Rhoads
Mistress Margaret "Meg" Page, his wife: Veanne Cox
Anne Page, their daughter: Alyssa Gagarin
Frank Ford, a merchant: Michael Mastro
Mistress Alice Ford, his wife: Caralyn Kozlowski
All other parts played by the company: Remy Brettell, Aayush chandan, Caroline Coleman, Michael Gregory, Aaryn Kopp, Joey LePage, Matthew McGee, Ian Pedersen, Aidan White
Directed by Stephen Rayne
Harman Center for the Arts, Sidney Harman Hall
610 F St. N.W.
Washington, DC
Ticket Information: 202-547-1122 or 877-487-8849 or www.shakespearetheatre.org


Photo: Scott Suchman


-- Susan Berlin


Also see the Current Theatre Season Calendar for D.C.



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