The Saratoga Shakespeare production of “The Merry Wives” of Windsor,” offered free of charge in Congress Park in Saratoga Springs, is a high-spirited affair in which the performers have so much fun, the merriment become contagious for the audience.
If the presentation isn’t always slick, it is almost always filled with good-natured fun that makes for a good time. It plays well, it looks good, some added music and dance makes you feel good and the price is right. It’s free.
The effort is an abbreviated version of the play that runs about 100 minutes without an intermission. Though the brisk pace holds your attention, I’d hate to see it even five minutes longer. Even this wisely edited version tends to sag about 70-minutes into the show.
This is not the fault of the performers as they are energetic and committed to the characters throughout. Nay, it is William Shakespeare that is to blame. “The Merry Wives of Windsor” is not a frequently produced play and there’s a reason for that. It’s not one of the Bard’s best plays as the plot is unwieldy, repetitive and even shallow.
What redeems this Saratoga Shakespeare effort is that director David M. Girard embraces the plays flaws and turns them into comic hijinks. Girard sets the play in Saratoga Springs during the 1930s. The concept tends to be more cute and parochial than necessary, but it offers costume designer Brittney Belz an opportunity to create some great looks with color and style.
The period permits Girard to use the film comics of the 30s as comic influences There is an obvious homage to Groucho Marx, as well as stealing from Three Stooges, Laurel and Hardy, Abbott and Costello and Buster Keaton.
Adding to the film motif is some great sound background to help you realize everything that is going on stage is about fun. This show is Shakespeare for the masses.
It continues through Sunday. admission free.
Bob Goepfert is the arts editor for the Troy Record.
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