Old Globe’s ‘Windsor’ Gleefully Mixes Shakespeare and the 50’s

Carter Piggee, Tom McGowan, Madeline Grace Jones and Bernadette Sefic (Photos courtesy of Rich Soublet II).

Carter Piggee, Tom McGowan, Madeline Grace Jones and Bernadette Sefic (Photos courtesy of Rich Soublet II).

Staging The Merry Wives of Windsor in the style of a 1950’s sitcom might not appear to be the most natural period setting for William Shakespeare’s comedy. However, director, James Vásquez, delightfully makes it work with standout contributions from his cast and crew.

A mischievous poor schemer, Falstaff (Tom McGowan), wants to get rich by wooing two financially wealthy married women, Mrs. Ford (Angelia Pierce) and Mrs. Page (Ruibo Qian) with love letters. When the wives figure out Falstaff’s goal, they plan to get revenge on the lustful wannabe ladies’ man.

What surprised me about the play is how lighthearted the script is, compared to many of the Bard’s other comedies. Shows such as A Midsummer’s Night Dream, Twelfth Night and As You Like It are all very funny, but also deal with serious situations that add suspense and weight to the narratives. In comparison, nothing is taken seriously in the current production at the Summer Shakespeare Festival.

This allows the performers to be hilarious throughout the evening. Cast members, including McGowan, Pierce, Qian, Jenn Harris, Matt McGrath, Dion Mucciacito, Jesse J. Perez and Jose Balistrieri feel completely in sync with each other, which is a testament to the artists.

Vásquez not only gets great work from the players, but creates an atmosphere hearkening back to shows, including “I Love Lucy” and “Happy Days.” He playfully alters Shakespeare’s text to include humorous 50’s references and collaborates with a stellar crew, including set designer, Diggle (his rotating set is stunning), costume designer, Lex Liang, lighting designer, Mextly Couzin and sound designer, Melanie Chen Cole, to bring the retro world to life.

Angela Pierce and Ruibo Qian.

Angela Pierce and Ruibo Qian.

Just as impressive is how they present the second act, which takes place close to Halloween. Vásquez and the crewmembers depict All Hallows’ Eve season as a time of the year that’s both spooky and fun.

The only flaw are the fat jokes that Shakespeare wrote at Falstaff’s expense. These gags are the main moments, of the outdoor rendition in Balboa Park, that feel a bit dated from the 1600’s prose. Regardless, McGowan takes a good amount of these insults in stride and is self-deprecating in the process, and allows Falstaff to be instantly charismatic and likable.

Even with the very upbeat tone, there is a positive message about the consequences of mistreatment, particularly of women. Mrs. Ford and Mrs. Page are portrayed as some of the most intelligent people in the tale, and the friends refuse to be taken advantage of by men.

Full of laugh-inducing scenes, The Merry Wives of Windsor works so well because of breezy storytelling from Vásquez. He turns Shakespeare’s classic into a joyful summer romp that is perfect for families and anyone looking for an enchanting night at the theatre.


[box] Show times are Tuesdays through Sundays at 8:00 pm. [/box]

1 A B C D E G I J L M N O P Q R S T U W
Photo of The Old Globe
The Old Globe
1363 Old Globe Way San Diego CA 92101 USA Work Phone: 619-23-Globe (234-5623) Website: The Old Globe website
Categories: Uncategorized
Return to top.

Leave a Comment