The tavern is cleared and in enters Falstaff. Falstaff discloses his poor state of financial affairs to two cowboys and the three join forces at the mic with “Ramblin’ Man.” Falstaff’s girth is only matched by his ego when he claims that both Mistress Page and Mistress Ford are in love with him and plots to seduce them to gain access to their husbands’ purse strings. Ashley Wright is perfectly cast in the role of Falstaff and reminiscent of a gentler and more jovial Jackie Gleeson. “Baby Don’t Get Hooked on Me” is so well staged and fitting to Wright’s character it sent the audience into uproarious applause. Wright executes the action flawlessly but it is Musical director Ben Elliott whose music choices add the spice. Elliott’s use of song licks as expressive narrative is pure comedy that expands the action, such as when Falstaff exits the tavern to set his plan in motion to the theme song from “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.”
Later at the tavern Frank Ford (Scott Bellis) learns of his wife’s alleged plans for infidelity and breaks into “Your Cheatin’ Heart.” Ford schemes to catch his wife with Falstaff by disguising himself as the beatnik Brooks. Bellis is wonderful as the bumbling Brooks but it is his turn at jealous Ford where he really hits his stride. At one point in the middle of his feverish monologue a woman in the front row laughs so hard Bellis stops to absorb her reaction and incorporate it into the scene.
Mistress Page (Katey Wright) and Mistress Ford (Amber Lewis) push the story forward with their collaborative conniving and poor deluded Falstaff falls hard, quite literally, into a basket of dirty laundry.
Hilarious sword fights, trickery and vengeful lies all fuel this raucous romp and keep you laughing until the last line is uttered. The Merry Wives of Windsor is Bard at its best and a must see for the entire family.
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