Tuesday, June 19, 2012
Theater review: The Merry Wives of Windsor at Hays Theatre in Fort Worth
Relatable and witty.
Love, sex, jealousy, mischief and money seem common in our society's entertainment, but apparently these topics have not only been around on sitcoms or reality TV. These themes have been entertaining audiences long before and especially with Shakespeare's masterpiece farce The Merry Wives of Windsor (playing as part of the Trinity Shakespeare Festival at the Hays Theatre on the TCU campus in Fort Worth through July 1).
The Merry Wives of Windsor is a delightful comedy making fun of English society in the Elizabethan era. Ironically, this is the only play Shakespeare ever wrote about the contemporary English lifestyle. Rumor has it that The Merry Wives of Winsor was written after the Queen loved the character of Falstaff from Henry IV, and wanted another play written about him.
In The Merry Wives of Windsor Falstaff is struggling financially and comes up with a brilliant idea to entice two married women in the town of Windsor. Falstaff writes two identical love letters and sends them to Mistress Margaret Page, and Mistress Alice Ford. The two women are appalled by Falstaff's request and go to see each other regarding the issue. It does not take these two best friends long to find out that Falstaff gave them both the same letter. Mistress Ford and Mistress Page decide to get even and play a prank on Falstaff.
It is not long until the husbands find out about Falstaff's strategy, and come up with a scheme of their own. The husbands and wives jokes interfere with one another, and one practical joke turns into a series of events. Falstaff forgives these women twice for their mischief, and hopes that their third offer will be his lucky hour.
Eventually the husbands and wives converse about their plans and join together to play one final joke on Falstaff to teach him a lesson about tampering with the Windsor women. In the meantime, the Page's daughter Anne comes up a scheme of her own to marry the man she loves, Fenton, instead of one of the ridiculous suitors her father has chosen for her.
Trinity Shakespeare Festival's rendition of this comedy was relatable, and a fine example of good theatre. Everything flowed in unison from the magnificent acting, to the costumes, set design, and music. I was really impressed with not only the acting abilities of this cast, but the singing and stage combat as well.
The entire cast had a lot of talent, and every single actor gave this show everything they had. The amount of work and effort that went into this production was evident by the quality of this production. G. David Trosko made a wonderful Abraham Slender by portraying an effeminate fop with great gestures, stature, and vocal energy. I was impressed that he used part of his make-up and costumes to help show the audience how indecisive he was with his manhood.
The two leading women Lydia Mackay and Trisha Miller had impeccable interaction on stage as Mistress Margaret Page and Mistress Alice Ford. Mackay and Miller worked off of each other well giving the same amount of energy and comedic drive to each character. Mackay and Miller were beautiful on stage, and made it easy to fall in love with their characters.
Richard Haratine and Blake Hackler gave the shows best performance as Frank Ford and Doctor Caius. Haratine shone while he was on stage, and gave flawless energy and interpretation of his character. Haratine exemplified the essence of an Elizabethan actor with his confidence on stage and being completely comfortable with the audience.
Hackler was mesmerizing as Doctor Caius with his engaging character and audience interactions. Caius' character was a narcissistic French fool that was always trying to prove himself. Hackler continued the comedy with his eccentric facial expressions, mannerisms, and physicality while showing off his fencing skills.
J. Brent Alford gave a worthy portrayal of a strong father figure and trusting husband as George Page. Amber Flores and Bradley Gosnell worked well as the forbidden lovers Anne Page and Fenton. Flores had such a sweet innocence to her that gave a good contrast between Alford's strict nature and her innocent passion for love.
David Coffee mastered the role of Falstaff. Coffee has an immense amount of talent, and knows how to get laughs out of audience members. Coffee gave the right amount of maturity to this role, and motivation behind a man's longing for women and money.
Amber Quinn had such spunk and personality with her character as Mistress Quickly. Quinn impressed me with her enunciation while speaking so quickly during her long monologues talking the different characters ears off.
Direction by T. J Walsh was an obvious success. Walsh understands Shakespeare, and how to communicate the text to the audience. Walsh made the performance visually stimulating by having different levels for the actors to play on, and included music and dance. The only minute thing I noticed was some of the accents were not clearly spoken and hard to understand at times. Some of the blocking was hard to see due to the space and the actors turning their backs to the audience. I felt the actors did well regardless of the space, and could still be heard.
Costumes by Leigh Ann Chermack were breathtaking. The women wore vibrant dresses that flattered every actresses figure. The men mostly wore earth tone and neutral outfits except for the two eccentric characters that each had elaborate colors on their clothes and hats. The costumes stayed true to the period and revealed each characters social status and personality.
Set design by Sean Urbantke stayed true to the time period. The set was well-equipped to be transformed into three locations rather quickly. Urbantke gave the actors lots of levels and areas to work on. Urbantke proved with his design that you can still have an extravagant set in a studio theatre.
Tristian Decker, Chris Hassler, and Kelsey Milbourn did beautiful work with their lighting, sound and music design. The sound effects were never cheesy, and were right on cue. The lights set the tone for the passing of time, and the use of some beautiful gobo lights helped change location from inside to outdoors. The musical numbers fit with the time period, and enhanced all the actor's voices. I was impressed by the vocal range of the actors and the harmonies of the men in the opening number.
If you are looking for a quality performance then Trinity Shakespeare Festival's The Merry Wives of Windsor is the show you want to see. Bring your witty humor, scheming plan, and join the cast for an unforgettable evening of theatre.
Pegasus News Content partner - John Garcia's The Column
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