Wild gold-rush women

The Merry Wives, 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday, Saturday; $10-$16. Big Idea Theatre, 1616 Del Paso Boulevard; (916) 960-3036; www.bigideatheatre.com. Through March 29.
Rated 4.0

The Big Idea Theatre adapts Shakespeare to California’s gold-rush period—with six-guns in place of swords, and bonneted ladies as, uh, bonneted ladies—in this reinterpretation of The Merry Wives of Windsor.

The adaptation works very well and allows for some Old West shenanigans in the form of a “hostess with the mostest,” as the traditional Host of the Garter Inn takes on the style of a bordello operator with good sense (well-played by Shaleen Schmutzer-Smith, who doubles as Mistress Quickly).

The two “wives” of the piece, Mistress Page (Laura Kaya) and Mistress Ford (Adriana Marmo) set a giggly trap for the boastful, lusty Falstaff (Jeffrey Lloyd Heatherly, who was born to bombast his way through this role) and also manage to teach their husbands a thing or two. As with all Shakespeare’s comedies, there’s a concurrent plot involving the affections of the beautiful, young Mistress Anne Page (Janey Pintar, in this and several other roles), and true love doth right all with a wedding at the end.

In between, Heatherly carries the show on his formidable shoulders, with some able funny business from Scott Divine as the “French” Dr. Caius (think Inspector Clouseau with dust on his boots) and Michael O’Sullivan as the “Irish” Sir Hugh Evans. For the most part, the supporting cast is quite good, though there were a few muffed lines that will no doubt quickly be brought up to snuff.

The set is well-designed by Alex Slater and executed by the company, with a gold-rush camp tent to hide certain necessary elements and the requisite number of entrances necessary for a comedy. But a true shout-out goes to Kaya, who designed the wonderful period costumes of a quality steampunk cosplayers would envy, and to director Angelina LaBarre, who wrangled a collaborative enterprise with her cast that resulted in some bellying up to the bar for a bellyful of laughs.