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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, April 29, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 17
Pleasant Merry Wives falls short of expectations
Arts & Entertainment
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Pleasant Merry Wives falls short of expectations

by Miryam Gordon - SGN A&E Writer

The Merry Wives of Windsor
Seattle Shakespeare
Company
Through May 15


The current Seattle Shakespeare production of The Merry Wives of Windsor hasn't quite figured out what it wants to be. Some of the bits are slapstick funny, some are careful, some are quaint. Some of the characters are broad, and some are not.

Overall, the play is pleasant and has some good performances, but perhaps because Shakes is capable of much more than being simply 'pleasant,' the production ends up damned with faint praise. There isn't much that is especially observant or unique about the production, even with a solid crew of Seattle acting talent.

The basic plot has a conniving knight, Sir John Falstaff, trying to get into a couple of married ladies' pants, but doing so in such a ham-handed way that it's easy for the wives to trick him into getting in trouble. John Patrick Lowrie does a nice job with Falstaff, but Lowrie himself is such a nice, intelligent actor and he plays Falstaff so reasonably that he makes you feel sorry for the character. It's as if his endeavors to cuckold the men are just what any person ought to be trying to do.

The lovely onstage music is led by Sean Patrick Taylor, a whiz at ye olde-style melody, along with some extra-talented actors who also play instruments. Deanne Middleton's costuming is of the Elizabethan sort, along with those Shakespearean tights. Jason Phillips' set looked like solid wood and contributed to the Elizabethan style with a nice scene-changing background that quickly altered locations with a simple turn.

Director and original co-founder of the Seattle Shakespeare company Terry Edward Moore made sure everyone spoke clearly (except for the egregious accent of Doctor Caius) and gave each tiny bit its own moment, but somehow the effect wasn't invigorating.

Leslie Law was a great success as Mistress Page, the smartest of the wives, who connives with Mistress Ford (Candace Vance) to set up Falstaff over and over again until he's thoroughly sick of losing. David Dorrian as Sir Hugh Evans (a small role) lent great authenticity with his perfect accent, which he inherited as a native of Great Britain.

Some of the fun, over-the-top, slapsticky performances included a very silly Christopher Hopkins-Ward as Slender and Keith Dahlgren as Justice Shallow. Similarly to John Patrick Lowrie, Anders Bolang also did a good job as Master Ford, tending toward the more reasonable, less broad styling that some actors affected. Katherine Jett showed off a lovely singing voice as Anne Page.

This wraps up Shakes' 20th season, and as artistic director Stephanie Shine is leaving her position, erstwhile director of outdoor and touring performances George Mount steps in as interim artistic director. They are fortunate to have such a natural progression of talent. The next announced season even contains apparently the first-ever production of Coriolanus (you'd think they would have done all of Shakespeare's plays at least once by now), along with another first, a production of George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion.

For more information, go to www.seattleshakespeare.org or call 206-733-8222.

Discuss your opinions at sgncritic@gmail.com.

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