Center Stage with Pat Launer on KSDS JAZZ88
“The Merry Wives of Windsor ”
“Romeo and Juliet”
Summer Shakespeare Festival at the Old Globe
AIRDATE: AUGUST 15, 2008
There’s been a tragedy in the Park. And a comedy, too. The Old Globe is in the midst of its annual Shakespeare Festival in Balboa Park – and if you haven’t partaken of it yet, shame and forsooth! Get thee to a funnery . That would be “The Merry Wives of Windsor,” one of the Bard’s sillier works, which is being re-set in the American Old West. It’s not as far-fetched as it sounds, and under the skillful direction of Paul Mullins, the time-and-place transfer works surprisingly well.
This is the only play Shakespeare wrote about middle class life. No kings, dukes and earls here. And though Fat Jack Falstaff was a knight in the Henry plays, here he’s a down-and-out, low-down buckaroo, dressed in suede fringe and chaps. He thinks he’ll snag some extra cash by seducing two wealthy, happily married women, the Merry Wives of the title. When smart, savvy Mistress Ford and Mistress Page get wind of his scheme, they plot to dupe, embarrass and humiliate him, which they do in spades. There’s a comeuppance for a jealous husband as well. All this plus can-can dances, swinging-door saloons and six-shooters, too. The performances are a hoot, a whole heap of character roles excellently executed. If the target is fun, the production unequivocally scores a bull’s-eye.
On the darker side of the Shakespearean ledger is that most beloved and tragic of love stories, “Romeo and Juliet.” This is a traditional staging, set in 15th century Verona , Italy . It’s an attractive production, if not a definitive one. The actors portraying those teenage, star- cross’d lovers grow in credibility and dramatic acumen as their situation becomes more dire. But all the adults bear some responsibility for the double-suicide that terminates the play and the family feuds. They should have known better, but they battled and bumbled and failed to protect the young.
Some of the stage pictures and death scenes in this production are remarkable. One of the most notable performances is by Owiso Odera , a UCSD Master of Fine Arts alumnus who makes for a comical, overblown Mercutio , best bud of Romeo, joking till his bitter end.
I’ve already told you about the third summer Shakespeare offering – “All’s Well That Ends Well,” which falls mid-way between comedy and tragedy, and is therefore classified as a ‘problem’ play. But there’s no problem at all with Darko Tresnjak’s splendid and stunning production.
One of the delights of the Globe’s outdoor Festival is its talented, versatile repertory company. You get to see the same actors in vastly different roles, observe the sheer versatility, and marvel at the difficulty of doing a different play every night.
Folks come from all over the country to attend our Shakespeare Festival. Shouldn’t you be there, too?
“The Merry Wives of Windsor ” and “Romeo and Juliet” play in repertory with “All’s Well That Ends Well” outdoors on the Old Globe’s Festival Stage, through September 28.
©2008 PAT LAUNER