GLT’s ‘The Merry Wives of Windsor’ lots of whip-cream-covered, popcorn … – The Plain Dealer

October 1, 2014 - accent chair

CLEVELAND, Ohio — After holding in Tracy Young’s churned cream-covered, popcorn-scented instrumentation of “The Merry Wives of Windsor” that non-stop during a Hanna Theatre Saturday, a enthusiast seated nearby this censor announced, “Shakespeare is fibbing painful and bloodied.”

Well, maybe only roughed adult a bit. With all due honour to my hyperbolic seatmate, it’s frequency a initial time.

Many a executive has jimmied with a Bard’s light-as-air comic frisk pitting a fleshy Sir John Falstaff – a beloved, big-bellied brute from Shakespeare’s “Henry” plays – opposite dual machiavellian women with rings on their fingers and punish on their minds.

The many distinguished of these adaptations was a 1985 British prolongation during Stratford-upon-Avon; executive Bill Alexander set a play in a 1950s, with a wickedly smart wives receiving matching crush records from Falstaff while sitting underneath hair dryers in a beauty parlor.

A 2012 Stratford chronicle helmed by Phillip Breen featured Falstaff creation like Travolta’s Tony Manero to a strains of Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On.”


The Merry Wives of Windsor

What: The Great Lakes Theater prolongation of William Shakespeare’s comedy. Directed and openly blending by Tracy Young. Running in repertory with “Les Misérables.”

When: Through Saturday, Nov. 2.

Where: Hanna Theatre, Playhouse Square, Cleveland.

Tickets: $15-$70. Go to or call 216-241-6000.

Approximate using time: 2 hours and 30 minutes, with one intermission.

In a Great Lakes Theater deteriorate opener, Young transports a movement to Windsor, Wisconsin, during a emergence of 1947 where her Falstaff is a thinly sheltered Orson Welles, finish with fawning environment and folding director’s chair emblazoned with his name (“Mr. Falstaff”).

Though Welles was slim and trim in ’47 – he didn’t grasp his planetary, “sell no booze before a time” girth until after – Young appropriates a auteur’s supernatural belly for her production.

Turns out, Young’s tinkering creates for a cunning rewrite as a late 1940s were pivotal years for America as good as Mr. Welles.

In ’47, he was still on tip though about to topple, only frequency married to a tasty Rita Hayworth, a star of his film “The Lady from Shanghai.” He caused a ruckus when he systematic Hayworth to clout her heading thatch and color it blonde to play Elsa Bannister, a summons who wrecks Irish soldier Michael O’Hara on a rocks of desire. (Writer-director Welles also headlined as a detrimental corrupt O’Hara.)

Despite a standing currently as a noir classic, “The Lady,” was a flop, finishing a wunderkind in Hollywood for good.

“By a time of a recover [in 1948], he had already left for Europe,” writes Rob Nixon for Turner Classic Movies, “where his subsequent devise would be a argumentative and problem-plagued film instrumentation of ‘Macbeth.’ “

Similarly, as Young’s “Merry Wives” begins, Welles-as-Falstaff (the good and padded Aled Davies) enters, with a camera to his eye and a martini in his hand, and announces that his “career is tanking.” He has fled a glitz and glamor of Hollywood and landed, penniless, in provincial Windsor, where he is plotting his comeback. All he needs is some mix to financial his subsequent flick.

His capitalization devise is as absurd as it is simple: he’ll woo a richest women in city – Mrs. Margaret Page (Jodi Dominick orderly channeling Martha Graham as owners of “Mrs. Page’s Dancing Academy”) and Mrs. Alice Ford (Laura Welsh Berg, only as cleanly channeling Lucille Ball, red thatch and all).

He sends them any a adore letter, not even bothering to change a words, essay his come-on on a behind of glossy, autographed headshots. Details like that make this re-imagined comedy pop. And vocalization of things that cocktail …

In a strange text, several scenes take place in a Garter Inn. Here, with a assistance of scenic and lighting engineer Rick Martin, a Garter is a two-story film residence with a moveable, intense marquee.

Falstaff hatches his affectionate schemes on a second-floor balcony, where he also squeezes into his director’s chair to shade rushes on a clattering projector that emits a resounding blue light. It’s a strangely relocating picture of a once good male busted by his possess appetites about to be done a contumely by dual women he thinks are eating out of his hand. (“We’ll learn him to know ladies from tramps,” says Mrs. Page.)

Down below, Bardolph (a caustic Stephen Mitchell Brown) once a member of Falstaff’s environment until “the magisterial pierce star” cut him lax to cut costs, works concessions, creation popcorn and shoveling it into nude card containers, promulgation a mouthwatering smell of fresh, buttery integrity wafting by a Hanna. (Later, expel members taste on a things ensconced in rows of red velvet film museum seats rolled onto a stage.)

So many food is indulged in and played with via “The Merry Wives,” one half expects Gordon Ramsey to make an appearance. (We get it – Falstaff is a glutton).

As it stands, a prolongation feels a small like – now take a exhale – a gonzo part of “Hell’s Kitchen” crushed adult with a slapstick hijinks of “I Love Lucy,” with a dollop of a foodie porn of “Nine 1/2 Weeks” constructed by Masterpiece Theatre. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

The wives, sanctimonious to impassivity over a advances of “this corpulent drunkard,” collaborate to captivate Falstaff to Mrs. Ford’s headquarters where, in dual apart sessions, a lady of a residence seduces him, many memorably by staining fritter around his mouth and spraying churned cream on her chest, extolling him to bury his muzzle in it. (Naturally, he complies).

At one point, she drops a mottled hang to exhibit a swimsuit and strikes a Betty Grable pose. These mistake seductions are a juiciest pieces of this dish and a sexy, snazzy Laura Welsh Berg takes her time and relishes them. Somebody give this lady a toothpick.

In any case, Mr. Frank Ford (Lynn Robert Berg, red-faced, eyes-a-poppin’ and Laura’s hubby in life) arrives “unexpectedly” and, in a best of his coital interruptions, lobs eggs during a perplexed Falstaff. They pound opposite a vast potion window, withdrawal a satisfyingly slippery route of yoke.

The rest of a story concerns a adore quadrangle in that 3 group strive for a heart of a dewy and attractive Miss Anne Page (the dewy and attractive Clare Howes Eisentrout). Some of these scenes are ludicrous (a weird, hypnotizing hula dance by a grass-skirted Eisentrout) while others start to abrade (Tom Ford as Dr. Caius, rising lines in an unintelligible French accent that creates Chief Inspector Jacques Clouseau sound like a articulation coach).

If GTL’s “The Merry Wives” isn’t classical Shakespeare, it’s positively classical Young. In her initial tour with a association in 2011, she changed “The Taming of a Shrew” to Los Angeles “sometime in a 1980s,” with women in fuchsia leg warmers and white edging bustiers, a la Madonna in her “Like a Virgin” period.

Whatever a conceit, Young delivers a Shakespeare that travels during whiz-bang speed powered by cocktail enlightenment riffs, extended earthy comedy and complicated slang. Purists competence cringe, though “The Merry Wives” is frequency a inviolate masterpiece – fable has it that Queen Elizabeth we desired a impression of Falstaff so many that she systematic a playwright to whip adult another play featuring a corpulent charmer in a small 14 days.

Though a heady thesis of jealousy as green-eyed beast bobs by a work, this is “The Merry Wives” not “Othello.” Here, a tension isn’t deadly; it’s presented as all in haphazard fun.

In gripping with a golden age of Hollywood motif, Young invites Marlene Dietrich to a celebration as housekeeper Madame Quickly (Tracee Patterson, sporting blonde curls, an eye patch and cigar). Just in box we don’t get a reference, Young gooses it with a recording of a lady Ernest Hemingway lovingly called “the Kraut” crooning “Lili Marleen in German.

Subtle as a hulk leg of mutton to a head, “Merry Wives” is a feeling overkill of an evening, a bawdy, crafty crowd-pleaser that even a Bard painful black and blue competence cheer.

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