Regional Reviews: San Diego
The Merry Wives of Windsor
Tradition has it that Queen Elizabeth I asked Shakespeare to write a play featuring Falstaff in love, after seeing Falstaff featured in both parts of Henry IV. Shakespeare obliged by making Falstaff down on his luck and vowing to remedy his situation by wooing two suburban housewives, Mrs. Ford (Angela Pierce) and Mrs. Page (Ruibo Qian).
These women have husbands, Ford (Dion Mucciacito) and Page (Cornell Womack), and that fact adds to the women's glee in pranking Sir John. The Pages also have a daughter, Anne (Camilla Hsieh), and she has several suiters: Dr. Caius (Jesse J. Perez), who is the choice of Ann's mother; Master Slender (Jeffrey Rashad), who is Anne's father's choice; and Master Fenton (Jose Balistrieri), who is Anne's choice. Complicating things even further is a parson, Sir Hugh Evans (Matt McGrath), who sides with Slender and tries to enlist Dr. Caius' servant, Mrs. Quickly, to help with Slender's cause.
Director James Vásquez has made suburban Windsor into 1950s suburban Southern California; doing so allows for a colorful rotating set (designed by Diggle) that allows the players to scamper about without the need for farcical slamming doors. The set is lit by Mextly Couzin. Lex Liang designed the colorful costumes, and Melanie Chen Cole designed the excellent sound.
Mr. Vásquez has coached fine performances from his cast. In particular, Mr. Perez, the head of the Globe/USD acting program, has much fun with the French Dr. Caius, and Mr. Balistrieri shows off a kind of "Happy Days" head of slicked-back hair as Fenton. Mr. McGowan's Falstaff is a good sport, as he gets hidden more than once and dumped in water in one instance.
The cast was hitting its marks on opening night, but I missed the kind of ensemble feeling that I'm certain will emerge with more performances. There was an emergency outside of the theater, and perhaps attention was diverted by the running motor of a fire truck that came in response.
Overall, though, The Globe looks to have a hit on its hands.
Cast members not mentioned in the review are: Luana Fontes as Bobbie, Madeline Grace Jones as Pistol, Sarah Joyce as Bardolph, Becca Lustgarten as Shallow, Carter Piggee as Robin, Bernadette Sefic as Nym, Vandous Stripling II as John, Emma Svitil as Simple, Jude Tibeau as Ensemble, Michael Underhill as Rugby, and Maggie Walters as Hostess.
The Merry Wives of Windsor runs through September 3, 2023, at The Old Globe, Lowell Davies Festival Theatre, 1363 Old Globe Way, San Diego CA. For tickets and information, please visit theoldglobe.org or call 619-234-5623.