The scholarly opinion of Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor is that it's not the Bard's best; the verse is a little lacking in Shakespeare's usual sparkle, and the plot has a few too many inconsistencies. And yet audiences respond to it warmly because it's about the vast majority of the audience. Here be no nobles struggling with rites of succession or the fate of nations, but a pair of middle-class ladies comically (and cruelly, at times) rebuffing the advances of the mighty Falstaff, a knight who has gone to fat and now needs a wife — any rich woman will do — to keep him fat. The ladies, Mistress Page and Mistress Ford, are intelligent, capable and bold; Falstaff is loud, egotistical and slow on the uptake. Merry Wives is the prototype for every family sitcom that stars a hot broad hitched to a lumpen buffoon, with the added twist of male cross-dressing. Shakespeare Festival St. Louis presents The Merry Wives of Windsor at 8 p.m. every night except Tuesday (May 22 through June 14) in Shakespeare Glen in Forest Park (east of the Saint Louis Art Museum; 314-534-9800 or www.shakespearefestivalstlouis.org). Admission is free, so bring a friend and enjoy the pre-show entertainment, which starts at 6 p.m.
Mondays, Wednesdays-Sundays. Starts: May 22. Continues through June 14, 2009