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The Merry Wives of Windsor

American Players Theatre, 2013

Terry Teachout – The Wall Street Journal

Windsor gets a late-1800s update in this warmly genial staging of Shakespeare No visit to American Players Theatre is complete without seeing at least one of the classical plays that are performed here in a manner that is at once authoritative and accessible. Should you feel the understandable need for a chaser after seeing An Iliad orThe Island, I recommend that you climb the hill to the company’s 1,147-seat outdoor amphitheater to see Tim Ocel’s version of The Merry Wives of Windsor, a warmly genial staging in which every line is enunciated with clarity and common sense. The production purports to be set in Windsor in 1895, but the overall feel is charmingly reminiscent of the River City of “The Music Man,” an impression reinforced by Gregg Coffin’s rousing Broadway-style incidental music. Brian Mani, who proved his uproarious mettle as a stage comedian in APT’s productions of George Bernard Shaw’s Widowers’ Houses and W. Somerset Maugham’s The Circle, here gives us a W.C. Fields-like Falstaff who oozes utter fraudulence from every pore, though David Daniel (Master Ford) contrives to steal a scene or two from him by deploying a comic rage worthy of Daffy Duck at his most exasperated. Colleen Madden and Deborah Staples are nicely tart as Mistresses Page and Ford, and Jonathan Smoots’s Dr. Caius is a little masterpiece of fractured-French caricature.

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