Saturday, September 3, 2011

Theatre review: "The Merry Wives of Windsor" from Pittsburgh Shakespeare in the Parks-Sunday 4th September

Pittsburgh Shakespeare in the Parks offers a lively take on the comedy The Merry Wives of Windsor. The cast kept it amazingly energetic despite the intense heat and a few heavy -looking costumes at the Saturday afternoon opening in Frick Park. Director Tommy Costello has had his actors project everything clearly while getting the basic sense of most of the lines. Sometimes, though, they milked the words instead of allowing them to flow naturally plus a few mugged too often as if in some kind of 19th century vaudeville show instead of in an actual play. While no one came across with an interesting and specific characterization, everyone made clear the elements of the story in broad, comic spirit.

Aging, overweight, self-important Falstaff is very short on money and decides that he will court two wealthy married women, Mistress Ford and Mistress Page. Meanwhile three different men are trying to win the hand of Page's daughter. The husbands learn of Falstaff’s plan and the wives agree to have fun with Falstaff by making him more of a fool than he is already.

You could learn more about the plot; Alan Irvine gives a verbal synopsis before each performance plus the program book gives all the details.

Costello has cast Joanna Getting as Falstaff and her performance stays loud and boisterous rather than specific, the most vaudevillian of all, nearly a clown act. Among the more interesting choices Jorgè Azcàrate triples in three roles which he gives clear and separate definition. And as another two characters, Adam Huff makes them nearly credible. Several other women also play men’s roles without going overboard to mimic masculinity. Characteristic of semi or non professional actors, child-like, many threw away important words at the ends of sentences, as if periods require downward inflections.

Cellist Rachel Smith adds musical color, which, unfortunately, at times competes with dialogue delivered a few feet away from her.

Costello has everyone walking through and sometime directly playing to the randomly seated audience, a friendly way to make the experience as down to earth as the story.

This reminder: you choose your own seating, meaning you might want to bring a folding chair or at least a blanket for sitting on the grass.

The free performances of The Merry Wives of Windsor are all at 2pm. The next are September 10th and 11th at West Park at Allegheny Commons, on West North Ave & Brighton Road, on the North Side

Those September 17th and 18th are in Arsenal Park , 39th and Butler St , Lawrenceville

And September 24th and 25th they return to Frick Park at Beechwood Blvd. and Nicholson St in Squirrel Hill.

Info at

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