Theater Review: The Merry Wives of Windsor by Shakespeare by the Sea (in Encino, CA)

On Saturday night, my wife Lisa and I (and my wife deserves kudos for allowing pretty much every summer “date” to be a Shakespeare night) checked out Shakespeare by the Sea’s touring production of The Merry Wives of Windsor in Encino, California.

Like the Independent Shakespeare Company, this is free Shakespeare in the park…or I should say parks, as it–unlike Indy Shakes–takes their shows on the road (Merry Wives is running in rep with The Winter’s Tale). There is a very admirable mission there, and given they’re rarely in the same town two nights in a row, they’re are set-builds and breakdowns every day. I love that concept of guerrilla theater.

Now, onto the show.

Set pseudo-Elizabethan, with a majority of characters in accent (though not all). Broadly comic. Nicely physical. In many roles, well acted. And the crowd loved it.

But I didn’t. It just didn’t do it for me. Where the setting/costuming and accents a way of giving the audience what they expected from “Shakespeare”? I’m not sure, but I just didn’t enjoy it. But like I said, I was one guy in an audience of 400, who–like I said–ate it up.

Maybe I was over-saturated with the Bard (remember this was two nights after Titus, and four nights after the burlesque Midsummer. If I had the opportunity, I’d love to check out their Winter’s … I know the costuming and setting is not Elizabethan, and I’m wondering if the accents are there. Were the accents a directorial decision, or a company decision? If it was just for this production, I’m on board to check more out… if it’s part of their mission…. I’ll pass. For me, the accents (as they were not consistent) were a distraction and an obstacle to the language (and in a couple of cases characterization as a whole).

If this is what folks are expecting (or wanting) from “Shakespeare,” then I’m not folks.

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