The Merry Wives of Windsor | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

The Merry Wives of Windsor 

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The Benny Hill Show of Shakespeare comedies kicks off Chicago Shakespeare Theater's season. This sprightly, well-cast staging by artistic director Barbara Gaines is set in early colonial times, and James Noone's set neatly captures the play's complacent mercantile tone. (Shakespeare allegedly wrote the piece to please Queen Bess, who wanted to see Sir John Falstaff strut and fret his hour--or three, in this case--upon the stage.) The autumnal set and costumes allude to the story's (imagined) midlife romances. But even this astonishingly gifted cast has a hard time overcoming the play's essential mean-spiritedness toward Falstaff. Greg Vinkler suffers these indignities with bowed but not broken pride, and Lise Bruneau and Ora Jones are delightfully in sync as the wives, scheming to get back at the knight for his unwanted attentions. A Halloween-inspired fairy pageant is a rich visual treat. Through 11/21: Wed 1 and 7:30 PM; Thu 7:30 PM; Fri 8 PM; Sat 4 and 8:30 PM; Sun 3 PM; Tue 9/14 and 9/28, 10/12 and 10/26, and 11/16, 7:30 PM; Wed 9/29 and 10/13 and 10/27, 7:30 PM only. Thu 11/11: audio described; Fri 11/19: sign interpreted. Call TTY 312-595-5699. Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Navy Pier, 800 E. Grand, 312-595-5600. $48-$65.

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