Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
Also see Susan's review of A Thousand Splendid Suns
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 www.folger.edu.
By William Shakespeare