A ‘sufficiency of guffaws and the odd pratfall’

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Andy Jones reaches full comedic stride in ‘The Merry Wives of Windsor’

Allegedly written at the behest of Queen Elizabeth, who wanted to watch a play about Shakespeare’s plump and rascally Sir John Falstaff in love, “The Merry Wives of Windsor” is the second offering in Perchance Theatre’s first season in Cupids, performed on the Elizabethan-style Endeavor Stage

Merry Wives” may in some ways be considered the forerunner and progenitor of French bedroom farce. Certainly not one of the most sophisticated of Shakespeare’s comedies, it is nonetheless stocked with a sufficiency of guffaws and the odd pratfall.

The well-padded role of Falstaff is performed by the most celebrated comedian in Newfoundland and Labrador, Andy Jones, who last year splendidly discharged the part of hypocritical Tartuffe in Moliere’s satirical comedy. In the role of Falstaff, on opening night Jones seemed at first a trifle tentative, but once response started to come from the good-sized audience, he got the bit between his teeth and was off to the races in full comedic stride.

In the royal borough of Windsor, Falstaff sets amorous and

pecuniary sights on two buxom housewives, Mistress Ford (Janet MacDonald) and Mistress Page (Alison Woolridge), despatching to both women identical letters of courtship.

Working hand in glove — both as performers and as characters — the twosome decide to turn the tables on the old lecher, who is decisively and hilariously foiled, undergoing a series of comic indignities at the hands of the merry wives and under the threat of their jealous husbands, Master Ford (Darryl Hopkins) and Master Page (Bruce Brenton).

After shuttling in and out of doors, upstairs and downstairs, Falstaff is subjected to being dressed as an old woman, being concealed and carried away in a hamper of dirty laundry, and, finally, being lured into Windsor Park at night, with deer’s antlers on his head (emblem of cuckoldry), to be plagued and pinched by a bunch of colourful, if spiteful, fairy-children.

But, when all is said and done, the ending is genial and conciliatory, rather than vengeful or recriminatory.

Oh, yes, and, as a sidebar, the Page’s daughter (played by Erin Mackey) elopes with her sweetheart, Fenton (Gaston Letourneau). But her parents forgive her in the end.

Directed by comedian Greg Malone, who also plays the clerical role of Sir Hugh Evans, “The Merry Wives of Windsor” continues its run to the end of August.

Days and times of performance may be verified by accessing Perchance Theatre online.

Geographic location: Windsor, Newfoundland and Labrador, Windsor Park

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