THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR presented by Cincinnati Shakespeare Company through Dec. 7. I attended the opening night performance. 

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The cast of THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR. Photo by Mikki Schaffner Photography

After their dark and bloody Halloween-appropriate production, Cincinnati Shakespeare offers an (over-) over-the-top comedy to close out the year with William Shakespeare’s THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR.

Now don’t get me wrong: there are plenty of moments that are laugh-out-loud funny. Some of the comic bits work really well. But on opening night, the ones that landed were outnumbered by the ones that did not. And with a run time of almost three hours with intermission, the show could use a bit of “bit” trimming.

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Abby Lee as Mistress Ford, Billy Chace as Falstaff, and Jennifer Joplin as Mistress Page. Photo by Mikki Schaffner Photography

Visually, the show looks great. The costume designs by Rainy Edwards are colorful and appropriate for the characters. The “found object” fairy costumes near the end of the play were very clever with great attention to detail. Shannon Robert’s set, dominated by two individually rotating towers worked well for the various locations and the need for numerous quick entrances/exits.

Billy Chace is fun as Falstaff, the boozing braggart with an over-inflated sense of sexual prowess. The objects of his unwanted advances are the hyperactive and slightly dingy Mistress Alice Ford, wonderfully played by Abby Lee and the down to earth but mischievous-minded Mistress Margaret Page, wonderfully played by Jennifer Joplin. The two characters balance each other well.

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Abby Lee as Mistress Ford & Billy Chace as Falstaff. Photo by Mikki Schaffner Photography

It is the second tier of characters that throws off that balance. When you have five or six over-the-top characters on stage together, their antics can overshadow the story. There were times when I longed for the return of Mistress Margaret Page, Mistress Quickly (Miranda McGee) or Anne Page (Kahla Tisdale) to bring a bit of sanity to the stage (in a good way). Also, several of the character voice/accent choices were difficult to understand when the actors had their backs to you. I think for me, as a fairly frequent audience member at CSC, the casting choices and sense of humor of this production does not cross into new territory.

If you are looking for a big and bawdy night of quirky comedy, THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR has that in spades.

My rating: 4.25 out of 5.

Click here for more information on the production.

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