A&E | Bureau County Republican

Review: Merry Wives of Windsor opens as Festival 56′s 19th outdoor Shakespeare production

The Merry Wives of Windsor, one of Shakespeare’s comedies, opened this past weekend as Festival 56′s 19th outdoor Shakespeare production.

There are some who think Queen Elizabeth I requested a play showing Falstaff in love. While this is not exactly the direction Shakespeare took with this story, love is the central focus of this show.

Director Hadley Kamminga-Peck shared her thoughts and interpretations of this play.

“It felt like a contemporary sitcom; like ‘Modern Family’ or ‘The Simpsons,’” Kamminga-Peck said.

She wanted a broad range of decades represented much like Postmodern Jukebox does with music. You could see this mix of eras in the costuming, curving balconies (a favorite of the carpenters), and hand-painted Art Deco walls (painted by ”Rissy” Bland).

This was one of the first plays in the English language to celebrate characters drawn from the middle classes and to feature women as the prime movers of the comedy. And oh, do they ever...

Rachel Weinfeld plays Anne Page, a young woman ready for marriage. She has fallen for young Master Fenton, played by local artist Justin Moon. Page’s mother, Mistress Meg Page (Kenna Wilson), would like Anne to marry French doctor Caius (Malachi Watson), but he has eyes for another. A third suitor, Abraham Slender (Matthew J. Kelly) is supported by Justice Robert Shallow (Dave Roden). Shallow has been terrorized by Sir John Falstaff (Richard Morgan) and his gang.

Meanwhile, Falstaff is attempting to woo both Mistress Page and Mistress Alice Ford (Grace Pichler). Hilarity ensues as Frank Ford (Ryan Koch) tries to trap his wife and Falstaff by disguising himself as Brook, who plots to catch his wife and Falstaff in the act. Thankfully, George Page (Cameron Smith) is not the jealous type and trusts his wife and daughter.

All of this is overseen and encouraged by an amazingly well-acted innkeeper, Mistress Quickly (Kristen Hall). Hall’s dynamic performance helps keep the audience understanding the goings on with use of her movements and motions and facial expressions.

Quickly has her hand in every pot and pocket, profiting off everyone’s desire to be lucky in love. Additional characters rounding out this talented cast were played by Michael Lee as Sir Hugh Evans, a Welsh priest, Madaleine Hunter as Joan Bardolph and Zandalee Henderson as Pistol and Jane.

Do not let this royally-requested play pass you by. And as Falstaff says in the show, “Money is a good soldier”; without generous donations, performances like this wonderfully modern take on “The Merry Wives of Windsor” will not continue.

- Aubrey Stiennen