A delightful comedy by William Shakespeare is playing through the holiday season at the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey in Madison. The Theatre’s Artistic Director, Bonnie J. Monte, is also the director for this production. This production marks the final show of her 25th anniversary season to which Ms. Monte said, “I want this production of ‘The Merry Wives of Windsor’ to be my thank-you gift to our wonderful audience. I hope it feels like a delightful feast of theatrical sugar plums and comedic candy that culminates in a glittering final act of fantastical surprises, convivial holiday spirit and celebration.” The production fits what she said and most certainly is a good one for the holiday season.
“The Merry Wives of Windsor” is one of Shakespeare’s most popular comedies. In her Director’s Notes, Ms. Monte provides interesting insight about the nature of this play. She writes, “The play holds a unique position in Shakespeare’s universe. It’s his only true domestic comedy that reflects the life and people that swirled around him in England at the time . . . It presents the only truly happily married couple in his canon, complete with two fairly normal children. It focuses on what was then the burgeoning middle class, and there is not one glimpse of anyone royal.” Although the plot of this comedy has many twists and turns, Monte has captured the true essence of what a theater goer needs to know about this show. “The Merry Wives of Windsor” has many twists and turns to it and it is long in parts. However, keeping that central happily married couple in mind will help keep the pieces in place.
This production has a sprinkling of holiday inferences spread though it such as mistletoe being used by the young couple in love and the innkeeper breaking out into a holiday tune. The set is outright cleverly build to allow different doorways to be used and sets to be changed very quickly. The costumes are properly oriented to the setting in Windsor, England and the materials and designs of the women’s dresses are absolutely gorgeous.
High marks go to the cast of this show for outstanding performances. The Shakespearean character Falstaff is a center focus of the show and David Andrew Macdonald plays him with great attention to detail and later with pathos to the sadness of missed love. The happily married couple, George Page, played by Joey Collins and Margaret Page, played by Saluda Camp, present their characters in a secure, comfortable fashion. Falstaff makes a play for Mistress Alice Ford played by Caralyn Kozlowski who joins forces with Mistress Margaret Page to cook up ways to take care of Falstaff however remain faithful to her somewhat jealous husband, Frank, played by Matt Sullivan. Sullivan’s expressions at times when he is in disguise as Brook are well done and add to the humor of the tale. This is a large cast but one of the outstanding comedic performances in this show is given by Jon Barker who plays Doctor Caius. He had the audience laughing every time he appeared on stage. Special shout out goes to Javon Johnson for his very descriptive facial expressions that gave a lot more humor to a few scenes that he was in particularly the ones where he is part of trying to remove the laundry basket.
“The Merry Wives of Windsor” is a good play for families to see together over the holiday season. There will be a Special Family Matinee at 2:00 p.m. on Dec. 23 and the show will play through Sunday, Dec. 27, 2015. To get tickets, call the Box Office at 973-408-5600, visit www.ShakespeareNJ.org.
Brush up on the show before attending by reading Know the Show found on the Shakespearenj.org website at this link.