‘THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR’ .
(photo credit: YOSSI ZWECKER)
THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR
By W. Shakespeare
Translated by Nissim Aloni
Adapted and directed by Udi Ben-Moshe
Khan Theater, February 25
Udi Ben-Moshe is great with comedies. He knows how to get the best from his actors. The Khan Theater’s ensemble work is, as usual, impeccable.
The individual actors’ characters are mischievous and precise.
There are lots of visual jokes, some of them running gags so the audience know what to expect and can giggle obligingly. One of them is Mine Host of the movable Garter Inn, aka the marvelously deadpan David Ben- Zeev, gravely going up and down non-existent stairs.
Doors appear and disappear in Svetlana Breger’s clever, minimalist set. Judith Aharon’s bright costumes invoke the ’60s and ’70s.
“Rock Around the Clock” (1956) and other Golden Oldies add oomph.
So why are we a bit on edge in this Merry Wives? Firstly, Sir John Falstaff himself is a Shakespearean running gag. Fat, dissolute, cowardly, lecherous, he appears in Henry IV, parts one and two, his death is described in Henry V, and he’s resurrected briefly and uncomically in Henry VI part 1.
In Merry Wives, Falstaff (Erez Shafrir), always broke, decides that the way to money lies in courting two rich women. That they’re married deters him not a whit. He sends identical love letters to the Mistresses Ford (Irit Pashtan) and Quickly (Yael Toker) who decide to give him a comeuppance.
Add jealous husband Ford (Yehoyachin Friedlander), complacent husband Page (Yoav Hyman), hapless Slender (Itai Szor), fatuous Caius (Ariel Wolf), malleable Mistress Quickly (Odelia Mateh Matalon), shrinking Parson Evans (Arye Tcherner) and other assorted human oddities and the stage is set for con-man Falstaff’s eventual downfall.
Shafrir, his few strands of hair plastered carefully across his balding pate, his bounteous stomach leading the way, nimbly plays Falstaff with aplomb and gusto.
Pashtan and Toker, joyously keeping their cool, relish both their roles and the opportunity to teach the men a lesson. Friedlander and Hyman are a study in contrasts and both play them to the hilt, Szor cringes and blunders while Wolf struts and pouts, both adding their mite to the ridiculous whole.
Matalon and Tcherner ably round out this collection of, let’s face it, misfits.
Because perhaps, for this day and age, that’s what this production of Merry Wives is all about: trying to keep our heads above water, trying to connect, trying to have a bit of fun doing it, when we can at all, if we can at all.
So that edge. It always hovers. That’s why we’re a bit on it.