A strong Central Wyoming College cast takes audiences to Elizabethan England while staging one of William Shakespeare’s lesser-known comedies The Merry Wives of Windsor.
The show opens in the Robert A. Peck Arts Center Theatre at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 1, which is followed by a 2:30 p.m. matinee on Saturday and Sunday, and a 7:30 p.m. show on Saturday. The play is the first of several events at the beginning of November that celebrates the 30th anniversary of the Arts Center, which opened in November 1983.
In Merry Wives, Shakespeare reprises the role of Falstaff, who was a major comic character in Henry IV, part I & II. According to legend, CWC Theater Director Mike Myers said Queen Elizabeth I loved the character and asked Shakespeare to write a play for Falstaff. The legend also says the play was written specifically for a knighting ceremony at Windsor.
Merry Wives, however, is set almost a century later than Henry IV, and has no references to any of Falstaff’s 15th century exploits from the history plays.
While The Merry Wives of Windsor is one of Shakespeare’s lesser known works, Myers selected it because it is one of the few Shakespeare plays that has multiple leading roles for women.
Theater student Patrick Bergin plays Falstaff, who is an aging, fat and jolly knight who is down on both luck and cash. He plans to seduce Mistress Ford and Mistress Page, played by Taylar Stagner and Hannah Thoman, in an attempt to get at their husbands’ money. He writes each an identical love letter, which are compared by the women and they hatch a retaliation plot full of pranks.
Myers has cast three of his recent theater graduates in the show, including Thoman, Jeremy Gross and Percy Claar. They have been great role models for the new crop of students making their first appearance on the main stage, he said.
Claar is Nym, who along with Pistol, played by Lander community actor Ed Novotny, tell the women’s husbands of Falstaff’s plans. Master Ford, played by Josiah Sifuentes, is the “comic version of Othello,” who becomes jealous and paranoid and develops his own plan to humiliate Falstaff, Myers said.
Gross plays the romantic lead of Fenton, who is in love with Mistress Page’s daughter, Anne, who is played by theater student Anika Greenhalgh. Gross is also the musical director and the dialect coach for the show.
Myers promises the Shakespeare script is easy to follow and is quite funny. “The play is not like any other that Shakespeare wrote,” he said. “It’s very unique.” As is usual with plays by The Bard, there are multiple plots happening at the same time.
The director reminds theater patrons that shows this year will only run over one weekend. He would prefer to have large audiences and fewer performances.
Tickets, $8 for adults and $6 for students and seniors, are available at the Arts Center Box Office; open weekdays from 3-6 p.m. or online. The box office phone number is (307) 855-2002 or 800-865-0190.
Pictured from left are Hannah Thoman, Patrick Bergin and Taylar Stagner