She’s crafty

In Shakespeare’s words, “The world’s mine oyster"—and The Merrie Wives of Windsor is his pearl

Nevada Reparatory Company’s performance of The Merrie Wives of Windsor

Nevada Reparatory Company’s performance of The Merrie Wives of Windsor

Rated 5.0

“Shakespeare is like having jewels in my mouth when I say the words,” says a 10-year-old Frank McCourt in the memoir, Angela’s Ashes. But it is not just the words that have importance when the play becomes a performance; it is what the actors do with the words, how they let those jewels roll off their tongues and how they share the vocabulary of emeralds and rubies with other actors.

Shakespeare’s plays run the gamut from pretty good to absolutely astounding. The “pretty good” plays generally get overlooked. This is a shame, because quality acting and directing might turn an average Shakespeare play into a classic, as is the case with the Nevada Reparatory Company’s performance of The Merrie Wives of Windsor. Watching the play, I wondered why, among all the Shakespearean works I read throughout high school and college, nobody ever mentioned The Merrie Wives. Perhaps the play is not one of Shakespeare’s shining jewels. Nevertheless, Nevada Rep turned a plausible piece of coal into a diamond.

The play revolves around Shakespeare’s favorite word: cuckold, the label given a man whose wife is sleeping around. It is always a question of who is making a cuckold out of whom and it is usually the case, in Merrie Wives, that no one is being made a cuckold of. Mistress Page and Mistress Ford, played respectively by Annie V. Scanlon and Susan Lingelbach, are two older women who receive love letters from “Fat Knight,” Sir John Falstaff, played cleverly and hilariously by Gary L. Metzker. The way in which he is teased and tormented reminded me of poor Malvolio in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. Upon discovering the letters are exactly the same, the women decide to make Falstaff even more of a pathetic fool than he already is. Mistress Ford plans to lead Falstaff on, eventually revealing his stupidity and dishonesty to her husband and friends, even if it turns Mister Ford (Kevin R. Molina) into a jealous maniac.

Lingelbach and Scanton make their characters as merry as the title implies. Though the actresses are young, they are adept at portraying the sophistication and wit that comes with age. Shakespeare loved to create strong and intelligent women, and these are they. They manipulate with good intentions and see humor in everything they do.

Molina as Ford is furious through most of the play, but he never gets boring as he is capable of portraying anger on a variety of levels. It would be amiss not to mention Casey Maxwell, who played the Welsh parson Sir Hugh Evans, and Simon Marx, who played the French physician Doctor Caius. With engaging enthusiasm and accents that were almost over the top, they were the perfect foils to one another. There was never a dull moment when they were on the stage.

In fact, there was never a dull moment when anyone was on stage. The play moves very quickly. There is a lot of lying, some trickery and minor treacheries, and the women are behind most of it. As I left the theater, I overheard a man say, "Well, the moral of the play is that you can’t trust women." But this could not be further from the truth. It is only because of what the women do that their husbands fall all the more in love with them—and the villains finally get what they deserve.