Santa Cruz Good Times

Tuesday
Sep 30th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Time of Our ‘Wives’

ae shakeswivesSanta Cruz Shakespeare hits new comic heights with ‘The Merry Wives of Windsor’

If we knew that William Shakespeare had looked into the future and predicted the existence of the Marx Brothers, Tina Fey, Bill Murray, Peter Sellers and Monty Python, poured their comic styles into a literary pot, and added huge helpings of shameless jokes at the expense of the Welsh, Irish, and French, it would go a long way toward explaining The Merry Wives of Windsor. And in the hands of Santa Cruz Shakespeare, under director Kirsten Brandt, the play that was good enough for Queen Elizabeth I (who attended the play's premiere on April 23, 1597) continues to deliver, having left opening night’s crowd limp with laughter. Let's just say it’s a hit.

All the jolly slapstick and sight gags in Merry Wives are employed to make a fool of one ripe target—Sir John Falstaff. Clad in scarlet uniform, pith helmet, and brandishing an enormous cigar, Richard Ziman plays Shakespeare’s enterprising lout with absolute and confident abandon. The redwood stage, as well as its company of players, practically levitates when he’s on board hatching his plan to seduce two middle-class matrons of Windsor out of their husband’s wealth. Once the wives, Mistress Ford (Julie Coffey) and Mistress Page (Greta Wohlrabe), get wind of his scheme, Falstaff himself becomes the target of the caper.

The central plot is cross-cut and sabotaged at every turn by a cast of supremely witless boobs—the Welsh parson Sir Hugh Evans (a dazzling display of physical humor by Kit Wilder); a French physician (the hysterical William Elsman, who channels both Peter Sellars and Sasha Baron-Cohen in mangling the King’s English); and a “helpful” go-between Mistress Quickly (Carly Cioffi, energetic and brisk in her verbal butchery).

The play builds its treasure of ambidextrous trickery thanks to a few key and brilliant performances. Playing at least two different sets of helpful nitwits are Brandon Blum, Mike Ryan, and Lucas Brandt as the immortal trio of Pistol, Nym and Bardolph—committing logo-larceny with every utterance, and matching the wordplay with physical pyrotechnics. The show-stopping scene in which Falstaff is spirited away in a wicker laundry basket is brilliant in every dimension. But Blum and Brandt's priceless body language provides the coup de grace of drop-dead hilarity.

Cross Laverne and Shirley with Lucille Ball and Carol Burnett, and you have the flashy duo of Coffey and Wohlrabe, who dispatch the men—husbands, village idiots, and of course Sir John—with impeccable timing and obvious relish. Yet if I had to single out one moment of almost unbelievable comedic delirium, it would be the stunning scene in which Mistress Ford’s husband (Mark Anderson Phillips) disguises himself and approaches Falstaff with a plan for entrapping both the seducer and his merry prey. Phillips tears up the redwood glen with an arsenal of vocal acrobatics, lurches, stutters, tics, and twitches John Cleese would kill for. The opening night audience was flat-out undone by this actor’s chops. Kudos to the entire company, and as for the robust and ribald Ziman—whose well-timed wit and well-placed corpulence commands this play from start to finish—as the play says, the world’s his oyster!

Shakespeare at his silliest, naughtiest, and wisest—to see this Merry Wives is to enjoy the birth of fifth grade humor, scripted by a genius.


Santa Cruz Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor by William Shakespeare, directed by Kirsten Brandt, runs through August 10 at the Festival Glen at UCSC. For tickets, go to santacruzshakespeare.org.

Comments (1)Add Comment
Merry!!!!
written by G.A. Patton, July 25, 2014
This review is totally on target. I just saw the performance, and a RAVE review is exactly what is called for. See it while you can!

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Reflecting Glass

Composer Philip Glass’ first trip to Big Sur was by motorcycle; little did he know that he’d establish a music festival there six decades later.

 

Rosh Hashanah

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, occurs this year during Libra, the sign of creating right relations with all aspects life and with earth’s kingdoms. We contemplate (the Libra meditation) forgiveness, which means, “to give for another.” Forgiveness is not pardon. It’s a sacrifice (fire in the heart, giving from the heart). Forgiveness is giving up for the good of the other. This is the law of evolution (the path of return).

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of September 26

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Wurst Case Scenario

Venus Spirits releases agave spirit, Renee Shepherd on planting garlic, Sausagefest 2014, and wine harvest in full swing

 

Do you think you are addicted to technology?

Santa Cruz  |  Unemployed

 

Best of Santa Cruz County

The 2013 Santa Cruz County Readers' Poll and Critics’ Picks It’s our biggest issue of the year, and in it, your votes—more than 6,500 of them—determined the winners of The Best of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll. New to the long list of local restaurants, shops and other notables that captured your interest: Best Beer Selection, Best Locally Owned Business, Best Customer Service and Best Marijuana Dispensary. In the meantime, many readers were ever so chatty online about potential new categories. Some of the suggestions that stood out: Best Teen Program and Best Web Design/Designer. But what about: Dog Park, Church, Hotel, Local Farm, Therapist (I second that!) or Sports Bar—not to be confused with Bra. Our favorite suggestion: Best Act of Kindness—one reader noted Café Gratitude and the free meals it offered to the Santa Cruz Police Department in the aftermath of recent crimes. Perhaps some of these can be woven into next year’s ballot, so stay tuned. In the meantime, enjoy the following pages and take note of our Critics’ Picks, too, beginning on page 91. A big thanks for voting—and for reading—and an even bigger congratulations to all of the winners. Enjoy.  -Greg Archer, EditorBest of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll INDEX

 

Apricot Wine for Dessert

Thomas Kruse Winery, a participant in the new Santa Clara Wine Trail, has been around for a long time—since 1971, to be exact. When our little group arrived to try some wine at the Kruses’ low-key tasting room, Thomas Kruse and his wife Karen were there to greet us. Theirs is a small operation, and they’re proud to offer quality wine at affordable prices. “Because we are small and low-tech, it’s easy to relate to the whole winemaking process,” says Karen—and the Kruses take pride in making wine “just like it has been made for centuries.”