There is a reason why hundreds of years after his time, the works of William Shakespeare are still performed, studied and loved across the world. Though many have contributed to the arts, few have ever come close to the writer's skill and fame. Naturally, this explains why the Clarence Brown Theatre would be interested in producing one of the playwright's many scripts.
"The Merry Wives of Windsor," a comedy, is Shakespeare's only play to focus entirely on the middle class. Though it was first published in 1602, many have said it is more likely to have been written much earlier.
The play's main character is a portly knight named Sir John Falstaff, who has recently fallen on hard times. Falstaff hatches a plan to seduce two married women, Mistress Ford and Mistress Paige, so that he might take financial advantage of them.
While Falstaff comically attempts — and fails — to garner the wives' affection, the young daughter of Paige, Miss Anne, is torn between love and her parents' wishes for whom she should marry. Though in love with Fenton, her mother desires for her to marry Dr. Caius, a French physician, while her father would prefer Master Abraham Slender, a quirky but loveable man.
The set design of the production was excellent. The audience clearly was drawn in by the authentic simplicity of the 16th-century town of Windsor, England, and the lighting served to draw the audience even farther into Shakespeare's world.
The play is a comedy for a reason, and the hilarity still stands in today's time. Several scenes stick out, most notably the miseries of Falstaff in his tumultuous pursuits of the mistresses, which lead him to everything from being dumped into a river to being "pinched" by fairies.
The performances were all inspired and believable. The cast, led by artist in residence Neil Freidman as Falstaff, delivered through its characters on many levels — not just comically but also realistically. Though all the performances were notable, Jonathon Phipps was comical in an inspired portrayal of Sir Hugh Evans.
Magen Wiles also provided much of the play's witty humor as the chatty Mistress Quickly, the housekeeper for Dr. Caius.
When performing a work of Shakespeare, the entire production team has to understand the standard it must meet. The direction of Kate Buckley guided the team to a truly inspired production of a theater classic that certainly honored the great playwright.
The play runs through March 13 at the Clarence Brown Theatre. Show times and tickets are available at the theater's box office.
Although UT students can get discounted tickets with their student IDs, the production is still worth the full price of admission.