THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR by William Shakespeare, directed by Jeannette Lambermont, with Michael Simpson, Richard Waugh, Allegra Fulton, Deborah Drakeford and Elley-Ray Snow. Presented by DareDen in association with the Shakespeare Globe Centre of Canada, City of Brampton and St. Andrews United Church at St. Andrews (117 Bloor East). Runs to July 31, Thursday-Sunday 8 pm. $14-$29, under five free. 416-504-7529. Rating: NN Rating: NN
Dareden's production of the Merry Wives Of Windsor aims for belly laughs but only gets the occasional chuckle.
Put part of the blame on the script, which by legend is Shakespeare's attempt to give Queen Elizabeth more of the fat knight Falstaff. The result is a series of gags and lots of interrelated stories - the period version of an extended sitcom, with plots and counterplots peopled by foolish figures.
Director Jeannette Lambermont finds little humour in the text, which in fact could stand far more cutting. Latin grammar jokes just don't fly today, though there are further laughs to be mined from the farcical actions of the self-impressed Falstaff, convinced that he can woo and win the two wives of the title.
Luckily, Lambermont has some expert actors in key roles. She hasn't, though, done a good job of shaping the efforts of the hard-working cast. The piece, staged in a church hall with troublesome acoustics, feels like an acting exercise rather than a realized production.
As Falstaff, Michael Simpson handles the broad humour with twinkly intelligence and physicalized, bawdy fun, while Deborah Drakeford and Allegra Fulton plot engagingly to ruin Falstaff's lechery. The two women, aided by Elley-Ray Snow 's energetic Mistress Quickly, are in control of the plot and help enliven the show.
Richard Waugh makes a fine Ford, the husband who roasts himself over the fire of his own jealousy and is finally convinced of his wife's fidelity. You can watch the various moods race across his face as he puts two and two together to get five.
Too bad strong performers like Greg Kramer , Richard Binsley and Catherine McNally get so few opportunities to show their skills. "Merry" may be part of the title, but that's not what the audience feels by the end of the show.