Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

August 13, 2019

REVIEW: Shakespeare & Company, The Merry Wives of Windsor

Shakespeare & Company, Lenox, MA
through September 1, 2019
by Jarice Hanson

“The Merry Wives of Windsor may not be one of the best known of Shakespeare’s comedies, but it is fun to watch some of Shakespeare’s women act as the primary architects of the story that unfolds. In Shakespeare & Company’s new production, the merriment is made greater by staging the show in The Roman Garden Theatre where the intimacy and energy is enhanced by the entrances, exits, and self-reflexive nature of the performers coming through the audience to take their place on “stage.” Director Kevin G. Coleman’s fast-paced production is loaded with laughs and actors’ asides to the audience, and a first-rate multigenerational, color-blind, gender-blind cast keeps the audience fully engaged.

There are too many actors/characters to individually acknowledge, but it is a pleasure to watch both Mistress Ford (Jennie M. Jadow) and Mistress Page (MaConnia Chesser) work together. The two have an excellent connection with each other and the text, and leave no doubt as to why their husbands (Martin Jason Asprey and Steven Barkhimer, respectively) will always be outwitted by their wives. Mistress Quickly (Cloteal L. Horne) is an engaging gossip and messenger for Falstaff (Nigel Gore). 

Kiki Smith’s imaginative costumes place the production in Elizabethan times, but sound cues and music pepper the transition points and give the production a contemporary flavor. At moments, the production’s stage manager finds herself in the middle of a scene and creatively blends in—bringing a wink and nod to experiencing Shakespeare in today’s world and adding to the comedic spectacle.

If there is a weakness to the production it may be that Shakespeare’s script is hard to cut for a modern-day audience. Act I establishes the characters and sets up the complicated story, but everything gets wrapped up in Act II rather abruptly. The production runs 2½ hours with intermission, and while the actors work valiantly to keep the energy high and the characters fresh, the story seems weaker and less satisfying than most of the Bard’s more well-known work. Still, if one appreciates the fine work of this company and are lucky enough to attend on a magical Berkshire day with good weather, you will not be disappointed.