The Old Globe Brings Second Summer Shakespeare Show: "The Merry Wives of Windsor"

With a Booming 1950's Inspired Version

A Blog View by Alejandra Enciso-Dardashti

(from left) Angela Pierce as Mrs. Ford and Ruibo Qian as Mrs. Page in The Merry Wives of Windsor. Photo by Rich Soublet II.
The Merry Wives of Windsor can be considered a "puff piece" but it certainly is a great way to introduce Shakespeare to audiences who have not experienced and/or are intimidated by The Bard.

Directed by James Vásquez, at the Festival Stage of The Old Globe Theatre, I attended the performance on Saturday before Hurricane Hilary (turned tropical storm) hit San Diego and the preoccupation went out the door as soon as those 50s tunes started playing. Due to the expected rain, the space had a reduced audience, and that made it more fun as there was camaraderie and dialogue that accompanied each reaction. 

Carter Piggee as Robin, Tom McGowan as Falstaff, Madeline Grace Jones as Pistol, and
Bernadette Sefic as Nym in Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor. Photo by Rich Soublet II.

The Globe is known for its attention to detail and this was no exception. Wives is a delightful production with a stunning set design by Diggle inspired by 1950s sitcoms like I Love Lucy, which includes a 360-degree piece that creates a vibrant atmosphere with rotating sets including a dinner, a doctor's office, and a kitchen that move along in a dynamic rhythm that makes it fun and easier to follow, versus other Shakespeare pieces, also allowing the audience to fully immerse themselves in the world of the play. 

Melanie Chen Cole's sound design perfectly complements the on-stage action and enhances the comedic moments along with Mextly Couzin's delicately crafted lighting design. Two technical elements that get more complicated to work with in the outdoors and in the dark. Cole and Couzin tag-teamed to really grab the audience's attention and not have it lost by other competing sounds around the park in addition to the never-ending flying bugs that surround the foresty area. 

Jose Balistrieri and Camilla Hsieh. Photo by Rich Soublet II.
The plot basically involves a three-way setup amongst two couples and a broke man that thinks will get his way, but is not counting on some of the players' witt. There is a third young couple that is in love but other interests foreign to them, get in the way mixing a set of knots that timely unfold to reveal the truth and culprit as well as the love -Elvis mannerisms included- thank you very much. The cast shines bright, with Angela Pierce and Ruibo Qian delivering standout performances as Mrs. Ford and Mrs. Page. Also making an impression with Lex Liang's costume design that included hoop skirts, moccasins, and checkered pants, contributing to the visual appeal of the piece. Their comedic timing and chemistry on stage are impeccable, and they truly steal the show as the clever and cunning wives of Windsor, outsmarting their would-be suitor Tom McGowan as Falstaff, who delivers the laughs and keeps audiences in their seats. Jesse J. Perez's portrayal of Dr. Caius with a comical French accent, complete with guttural pronunciations, adds another layer of humor to the production. Jenn Harris as the sneaky and "foodie", Mrs. Quickly, was also a hoot as the very active messenger between the parties. Jose Balistrieri as part of the young love interest Fenton, although in an out in brief intervals, nailed the nods and look of the King of Rock 'n' Roll. The stellar cast rounded out by Luana Fontes, Camilla Hsieh, Vandous Stripling II, Madeline Grace Jones, Sarah Joyce, Becca Lustgarten, Matt McGrath, Dion Mucciacito, Carter Piggee, Jeffrey Rashad, Bernadette Sefic, Emma Svitil, Jude Tibeau, Michael Underhill, Maggie Walters, and Cornell Womack, through James Vásquez's direction, shared a sweet, hilarious, and enjoyable show along a stunning set design, and impeccable technical elements, that deliver an evening of laughter and entertainment.

The Merry Wives of Windsor is currently playing until September 3rd.

For dates and performance times please click HERE.

Listen to our two latest episodes of Downstage, the SD Theatre Critics Podcast with guests Melanie Chen Cole and James Vásquez

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