Theatre Review by Alec Clayton for OLY ARTS
The Merry Wives of Windsor is arguably Shakespeare’s funniest comedy. It is also one of the bard’s most accessible plays.
Animal Fire Theatre’s outdoor production of Merry Wives, using Olympia’s Priest Point Park as its venue, is hilarious, and the dense and sometimes difficult to understand Shakespearean language is rendered simple to follow by this fine troupe of actors who enunciate and project clearly — not always easy in an outdoor setting.
Sir John Falstaff (Dave Champagne) — the most popular of Shakespeare’s comic characters, who has appeared in three Shakespeare plays — takes a mind to seduce two married women, Mistress Page (Paige Doyle) and Mistress Ford (Shannon Agostinelli).
The women learn of Falstaff’s plan and decide to play along up to a point in order to teach him a lesson. Three times, in fact, they teach him a lesson by teasing him, hiding him, whisking him away in a laundry basket, dumping him in a river, disguising him as a woman, having him beat up and recruiting half the population of Windsor to dress up as fairies and harass him.
In Merry Wives, the women are clearly in charge, from the targets of Falstaff’s desire to the proprietor of the local drinking establishment (Christine Goode) to Mistress Quickly (Kimberlee Wolfson), assistant to the pretentious Dr. Caius (Ryan Martin Holmberg).
Page’s daughter, Anne (Stephani Hemness) in a delightful subplot, is in love with Fenton (Lucia Wyss), a young gentleman in the original but a young woman here, although Anne’s parents plan to marry her off to Slender (Ethan Bujeaud) or to Dr. Caius.
The entire cast is outstanding, and the laughs are non-stop. The action takes place outdoors, so it is recommended that audience-goers bring a blanket or folding chair to sit on, perhaps some mosquito repellent and a warm jacket for when the evening turns cool.
The performance is free, but donations are happily accepted.
The Merry Wives of Windsor
7 p.m. Friday-Sunday, through July 21
Priest Point Park,
2600 East Bay Drive NE, Olympia