Review: A weightier Falstaff

Posted June 27, 2023

MWW Isthmus Review

By Gwendolyn Rice, Isthmus

While Shakespeare’s 'The Merry Wives of Windsor' has always been a rom-com, the American Players Theatre production features laudable self-rescuing heroines.

In the pre-show speech for Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor, the rotund rogue Falstaff (David Daniel) tells the audience in American Players Theatre’s outdoor Hill Theatre to silence their cell phones and meet him after the show (with cash in hand) if they want to take any photos. Then he officially introduces the play as The Adventures of Falstaff. Such is the bravado and ego of one of classical theater’s most notable larger-than-life characters — a man of great appetites, bombast and self-serving schemes. Falstaff is just one of the captivating characters we meet in this delightful, season-opening production directed by Terri McMahon, which runs through Oct. 8.

Removed from any literal time and place, this production’s Windsor is an exuberantly colored, fantastical world, watched over by the statue of a bright pink stag. The driving beats of contemporary music introduce hijinks in nearly every scene, thanks to energetic sound design and compositions by Sartje Pickett. Those riffs frequently accompany Brian Cowing’s playful choreography — including an opening dance taught by the cheekily-named teacher “Artura Murray.” Whimsical scenic design by Scott Penner captures a modern, irreverent-hipster vibe, juxtaposing bold navy classical shapes with a metallic gold column and an enormous pink boombox that doubles as a bar. And Susan Tsu’s costumes run the maximalist gamut from voluminous, corseted dresses in bright floral satin and brocade frippery, to layers of quirky street fashion, accessorized with top hats. In this dimension of extremes, love and loyalty are tested, petty differences are forgiven, buffoonery is exposed, and real treachery doesn’t stand a chance.

Read the full review here!