Santa Cruz Good Times

Oct 10th
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

Comments (1)Add Comment
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


Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share


Hot in Here

This ain’t no Burning Man—the MAH’s GLOW festival flames on


Mercury Direct in Libra, Columbus Day, Libra New Moon

Mercury completes its retrograde Friday, poised stationary direct Friday evening at zero degrees Libra. Mercury begins its journey through Libra once again, completing its retrograde shadow Oct. 12. Things should be a bit less complicated by then. Daily life works better, plans move forward, large purchases can be made, and communication eases. Everything on hold during the retrograde is slowly released. Since we eliminated all thoughts and ideas no longer needed (the purpose of Mercury’s retrograde) during the retrograde, we can now gather new information—until the next retrograde occurs on Jan. 5, 2016 (1.3 degrees Aquarius), retrograding back to 15 degrees Capricorn on Jan. 25. It’s good to know beforehand when Mercury will retrograde next—Jan. 5, the day before Epiphany. On Monday is Columbus Day, when the sailor from Genoa arrived in the new lands (Americas), Oct. 12, 1492. This discovery by Columbus was the first encounter of Europeans with Native Americans. Other names for this day are “Discovery Day, Day of the Americas, Cultural Diversity Day, Indigenous People’s Day, and Dia de la Raza.” Italian communities especially celebrate this day. Oct. 12 is also Thanksgiving Day in Canada. Monday is also the (19 degrees) Libra new moon festival. Libra’s keynote while building the personality is, “Let choice be made.” Libra is the sign of making life choices. Often under great tension of opposing forces seeking harmony and balance. There is a battle between our lower (personality) and higher selves (soul). We are tested and called to cultivate right judgment and love. When we align with the will-to-good, right choice, then right judgment and love/wisdom come forth. Our tasks in Libra. 


The New Tech Nexus

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


Film, Times & Events: Week of October 9

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


Seoul Food

Santa Cruz’s new Sesame Korean is a great introduction to an ancient culinary tradition


Is there evil in the world?

Yes, some people don’t think right because they have been treated badly. Milo Robbins, Scotts Valley, Second Grade


Dos Aguilas Olive Oil

Aptos company is letting locals pick their own olives in October


What’s your biggest pet peeve?

When people say they’re “going down” somewhere, and they’re actually traveling north. Julia Ragen, Santa Cruz, Psychologist