There is an old adage that states “Hell hath no fury like a women scorned.” However, as the Grassroots Shakespeare Company’s latest production illustrates, hell hath no fury like two clever women scorned. In its latest production over the holiday break, GSC performed “Merry Wives of Windsor,” a story of what happens when husbands falsely accuse their wives of infidelity and a pompous oaf believes he can seduce any woman with the same letter.
As with all GSC plays, “Merry Wives” was produced and performed in the traditional manner akin to Shakespeare’s time. This means the cast only had about 8 days to rehearse, there was no director, no costume manager, no set designer and everything had to be provided by the cast. Often cast members played more than one role. Though the GSC is a bit more progressive by allowing women into their cast, the assigned roles don’t necessarily stick to gender lines. Levi Brown, a tall built man with a red beard, played not only Master Page but also Mistress Quickly, donning a short brown wig and a purple dress.
What set this production apart to ones in the past was the amount of physical humor the cast endured. While previous productions such as Macbeth have played special attention on the language of the play, this production often gained laughs by timed stunts accompanied by sound effects provided by the show musicians. While not all of the stunts worked out precisely as timed, they still entertained the audience.
If a best actor and best actress were to be chosen for the production, it would hands down be given to Greg Larsen for his role of the French Dr. Caius and Caitlin Webb for her role as Mistress Ford. What made Larsen’s performance so entertaining was his dedication to his atrocious French accent. The role of Dr. Caius is suppose to be hard to understand and the source of ridicule. Larsen played the role perfectly with precise timing and enough of a garbled accent that he was not only hilarious but also could be understood. When he found the character of Simple, played by William Kalmar hiding in his closet, Mistress Quickly explained Simple was an honest young man. Larsen immediately exclaimed, “What shall de honest man do in my closet? Dere is no honest man dat shall come in my closet!” Larsen delivered the line with a more understandable version of his accent, having the audience rolling with laughter in the process.
As for Caitlin Webb, her true comedic chops shined when pretending to be distraught in order to trick Falstaff, played by Daniel Anderson. Webb seemed to channel an overdramatic Gloria Swanson from the late actress’s portrayal of Norma Desmond in “Sunset Boulevard.” Everything Webb did, from her stylized voice to her angled hands and arms to her apparent “crazy eyes” was done, again, with precision and control, never going so over the top as to delve into the realm of the ridiculous. Rather, she allowed the audience to get what she was doing and how she was doing it, letting them enjoy her performance without worrying about being weirded out.
But perhaps the most special aspect of the entire production was in the camaraderie of the cast. While the audience did get to enjoy a wonderful production, they also got to enjoy an bonus sense of friendship and love among the cast. Not only were they all actors presenting their craft but also gave off the aura of being a bunch of old friends goofing off and enjoying one another’s company. The feeling is hard to explain but undeniable when watching a production. These actors not only love their craft but love each other and love performing together. Experiencing this feeling in person is well worth going to any GSC production.
For more information about the Grassroots Shakespeare Company, visit http://www.grassrootsshakespeare.com/
By Kelly Cannon – Life Editor
Photo courtesy of J. Kelly Oram