Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

The Merry Wives of Windsor
Folger Theatre
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule

Also see Susan's review of A Thousand Splendid Suns

Regina Aquino, Brian Mani, and Ami Brabson
Photo by Cameron Whitman Photography
The Merry Wives of Windsor is the closest William Shakespeare ever came to writing a situation comedy, beginning with a set-up and following with three variations on the same basic plot. Director Aaron Posner leans into this affinity in the production now at the Folger Theatre in Washington, setting the play in the world of 1970s television; it's fluffy and sometimes excessively silly, but, as the cast says in its opening song, it isn't trying to be King Lear.

On Tony Cisek's set (which suggests the house occupied by "The Brady Bunch"), with Max Doolittle's building-block lighting design, the town of Windsor comes to life in 1972. Sir John Falstaff (Brian Mani), in need of female companionship and, more importantly, money, sends identical love letters to Mistress Page (Regina Aquino) and Mistress Ford (Ami Brabson), hoping to persuade one or both to support him with money they "borrow" from their husbands (Tyee Tilghman as Page, Eric Hissom as Ford). He doesn't know the two wives are best friends who immediately decide to turn his scheme inside out.

So far, so good. Mani is a bumptious Falstaff as he bellows, wheedles, and displays his bulk in a tie-dyed T-shirt and bell-bottoms; Hissom delights both as the buttoned-up Ford and in disguise (tinted shades, a Rolling Stones T-shirt, glittering platform shoes) as would-be seducer "Master Brook"; Aquino and Brabson are charmers as they plot revenge; Brian Reisman is hilarious as Abraham Slender, socially inept suitor to self-possessed Anne Page (Linda Bard); and Kate Eastwood Norris is relentlessly perky as Mistress Quickly, nurse and everyone's confidant. It goes without saying that Devon Painter's period costumes earn their laughs, ranging from leisure suits and medallions on bare male chests to caftans and orange stockings that match the furniture.

The problem comes when the goofiness overwhelms the substance. Yes, Shakespeare wrote the exaggerated French accent for Dr. Caius (Cody Nickell) and the impenetrable Welsh spoken by Sir Hugh Evans (Todd Scofield), but the actors emphasize the malapropisms while Slender's uncle Justice Shallow (Tommy A. Gomez) adds an obvious Mexican accent to the mixture, and enough is enough.

The Folger Shakespeare Library, including the theater, will close for extensive renovations in March. The company will present three plays next season at venues throughout the region.

The Merry Wives of Windsor runs through March 1, 2020, at the Folger Shakespeare Library, Elizabethan Theatre, 201 E. Capitol St., SE, Washington DC. For tickets and information, please call 202-544-7077 or visit

By William Shakespeare
Directed by Aaron Posner

Mistress Page: Regina Aquino
Anne Page/Bardolph: Linda Bard
Mistress Ford: Ami Brabson
Mine Host: Louis E. Davis
Pistol/J. Rugby/Roberta: Danielle Gallo
Justice Shallow: Tommy A. Gomez
Ford: Eric Hissom
Falstaff: Brian Mani
Dr. Caius: Cody Nickell
Mistress Quickly: Kate Eastwood Norris
Abraham Slender: Brian Reisman
Nym/Fenton: Dante Robert Rossi
Sir Hugh Evans: Todd Scofield
Page: Tyee Tilghman
Simple/John: Derrick Truby