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Director Kevin P. Kern has transferred The Bard’s hilarious and witty comedy to “The Windsor”, a fictional retreat in the Catskills circa 1966. The Merry Wives of Windsor was – according to legend – penned by Shakespeare to appease Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth’s desire for another story starring her favorite character – Falstaff – wherein “he’s got to fall in love”.
The setting in the Catskills during the mid 1960s allows for our Merry (and bored) Wives, Mistress Page (Hannah Tamminen, AEA) and Mistress Ford (Lauren Zbylski, AEA), to seek out diversion by playing a joke on the unknowing Falstaff (Ted Barton, AEA) whom they feel has wronged them both by sending near identical love letters to each. Mister Ford (Michael Faulkner, AEA) however thinks his wife is cheating on him so he disguises himself as – what else? – a strange Russian in an attempt to collude with Falstaff in some of the funniest scenes to determine his wife’s fidelity. Unfortunately for Falstaff, his carnal plans to make a fortune off Mrs. Ford and Mrs. Page is thawed and he becomes the butt of many a physical and verbal joke.
There are a couple other interwoven plots involving equal parts deception. Most notably there are the suitors (Kenny Toll, AEA, Jordan Erickson and Jeff Wallach) who seek the hand of Anne Page (Nona Johnson) and – more importantly for two of them – the handsome dowry Mr. Page (Jason D. Rennie, AEA) has promised.
#1 Reason to See the Show: Ted Barton IS Falstaff!
Ted Barton (whose credits include Kingsmen’s Hamlet and The Tempest) is a standout from beginning to finish.
- His comedic timing is spot on,
- He’s got excellent chemistry with his co-stars, especially Michael Faulkner, Lauren Zbylski, Hannah Tammienen and Caitlin Arndt (Hostess),
- and he knows how to deliver Shakespeare’s prose so that the audience can follow all his jokes.
#2 Reason to See the Show: The Merry Wives!
Leading ladies, Hannah Tamminen (Mistress Page) and Lauren Zbylski (Mistress Ford) do a fabulous job
- matching wits with one another,
- holding their own against Ted Barton’s Falstaff,
- and make fine work of the show’s most likeable characters.
#3 Reason to See the Show: Michael Faulkner’s Melodramatic Portrayal of Mr. Ford’s Alter-Ego, Mr. Brooks!
Michael Faulkner nearly steals the scene whenever he is onstage as Mr. Brooks (aka Mr. Ford in disguise as a strange Russian man trying to collude with Falstaff).
Thanks to John Carla‘s hilarious music, Jeff Wallach‘s excellent choreography and Kevin P. Kern‘s perfect comedic timing, Faulkner earned some of the biggest belly aching laughs of the night at Saturday’s performance. He was the perfect actor to share the stage with Ted Barton (Falstaff) for there was no weak moment between them both.
#4 Reason to See the Show: Kevin P. Kern + John Carla
As illustrated in Reason #3, Kevin P. Kern‘s comedic direction and John Carla‘s fabulous soundtrack fit like hand in glove. The team put together not only Mr. Brooks’ hilarious entrances but also a couple montages to music that were not only entertaining but useful in moving the story’s action along seamlessly.
In fact the opening montage was one of the strongest scenes (aside from the two laundry room scenes) and not a word was spoken but you knew who each character was thanks to the perfect show direction and were well aware of what hilarity was to come thanks to the soundtrack.
#5 Reason to See the Show: The Fashions!
The cast are dressed up in stereotypical 1960s fashions complete with argyle golf socks and pop art inspired prints that must have provided a merry field day for Costume Designer Noelle Raffy. And I loved that the stage hands were also dressed in period costume meaning that the scene changes took place smoothly.
I could go on and on about all the great reasons to see Kingsmen Shakespeare Company‘s fabulous Merry Wives of Windsor but would hate to spoil the show for you. The cast from interns to AEA artists were excellent, the sets and costumes were professional, and the show had the audience on Saturday night heartily laughing from start to finish making this a MUST SEE before the festival’s more serious Richard II opens in July featuring Tamminen as Bolingbroke, Rennie as Northumberland, Zbylski as Queen, Faulkner as Bagot and Barton as Duke of York.
There are lawn boxes (room for 4-6 adults) available for purchase meaning you’ll have front and center seating ($90-110).
For the general public, individual tickets can be purchased on the night of the performance for $25 per person (minors under 18 are FREE, Students with ID are $15, seniors over 62/military personnel are $20).
Everyone is responsible for their own chairs and/or blankets. Low chairs are required for the majority of the lawn boxes and all chair sizes are allowed in the general public seating behind the boxes.
As someone who was in the rear of the general public seating, I could see perfectly well, heard all the actors nice and clearly (I am thinking they might be mic’d) and enjoyed being in the open night air watching some Shakespeare come to life.
Coming Early is Highly Recommended:
The park opens at 5:30pm to the public. Consider preparing or buying some dinner en route that you can enjoy at the festival prior to the show beginning.
There is a pre-show presentation (approx. 6:45pm/7:00pm) that might help anyone who is not familiar with the material in grasping an idea of what you are about to see!
For those who want to be in the lawn boxes, there are several boxes that allow regular sized chairs for accessible patrons.
There are plenty of handicap parking spaces up front of the parking lot and a concrete walk way that leads straight to the entrance of the festival!
While there is no sex, violence and language a contemporary audience would find astonishing, there were definitely a great number of sexual jokes and innuendos as with any Shakespearean comedy. I imagine those jokes and references might go over the heads of the young people in the audience but for families it is probably wise to be prepared should your son or daughter ask what a woman’s “scut” might be (pubic hair FYI) or reference any number of jokes about threesomes, kinky role playing, and more.
Location (Free Parking):
California Lutheran University
60 West Olsen Road, Thousand Oaks, CA 91360
Directions from 101-South
Exit Lynn Road
Left on Lynn Road
Continue onto Olsen Road
Right on MountClef Blvd.
Parking is in the first lot on the right.
Directions from 101-North
Take Exit 16 for CA-23 North
Exit Sunset Hills Blvd.
Left on Sunset Hills Blvd
Left on Olsen Road
Left on MountClef Blvd.
Parking is in the first lot on the right.
Merry Wives of Windsor 7/5-7 and 7/12-14
Richard II 7/19-21, 7/26-28, 8/2-4
All performances start at 8pm
Disclaimer: I had my ticket comped for review purposes but all opinions are my own.
For more entertainment options, check out the calendar.