The Merry Wives of Windsor
Reviewed by David Kashimba
Photo by Steven Underwood

Marin Shakespeare Company takes a hip turn as it liberally updates Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor to a Marin County, California scene in the 1970s. In this era of free love, hot tubs and peacock feathers, two rich Marin wives make more than one man pay heavily for even the hint of love.

One of the men is one of Shakespeare’s most popular comic characters, Sir John Falstaff (Jack Powell). In Henry IV, parts 1 and 2 Falstaff provides comic relief as the companion of Prince Hal who later becomes Henry V and rejects Sir John. This in turn breaks the old soldier’s heart leading to his death. But Falstaff had so many admirers, including the queen, that Shakespeare resurrected the “greasy knight” for The Merry Wives of Windsor. Unlike the previous plays where Sir John’s comic figure had his own unique humanity and capacity to love, the Falstaff in Merry Wives is a flat comic figure with no morals. He begs to be made fun of. The Falstaff of Merry Wives focuses only on sex and money, and with slapstick glee, Shakespeare knocks him down on both counts.

The other man that pays heavily is Master Ford, the husband of one of the rich wives. In the character of Ford, Darren Bridgett provides one of the best performances in a stellar cast. Bridgett gives a wonderful comic twist to his interpretation of an insanely jealous husband. His out of control rantings and ravings are hilarious. Me thinks he must have had some coaching from a psychotherapist.

Another special performance comes from Phoebe Moyer in the character of the matchmaker, Mistress Quickly. An aging hippie, Quickly still has a lust for free love, free drugs and free liquor. Moyer, a Marin County resident, brings this character to life with a special comic flare that turns her debauchery into a curious innocence. Who would have ever thought that we would one day look back at the 60s and early 70s as a time of innocence?

For tickets or more information on how to get to this outdoor theatre, located at Dominican University in San Rafael, call (415) 499-4488 or visit www.marinshakespeare.org.

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