Ring-a-ding-ding — Falstaff rolls into town with 'Merry Wives' on June 28

June 12, 2014

Shakespeare’s beloved farce, set in a 1960s Catskills mountain resort 

BOULDER, Colo. — When Falstaff rolls into town with his crew on June 28 with the opening of “The Merry Wives of Windsor” at the Colorado Shakespeare Festival — the first of three Falstaff plays this summer — he’ll find himself in an unusual time and place.

“We begin our play in 1962, at the ‘Mount Windsor Hotel and Resort’ in the Catskill Mountains,” says director Seth Panitch, head of undergraduate acting programs at the University of Alabama. “We begin with the aging comedian ‘Sir’ John Falstaff, the Crusading Knight of the Round Waistband, who arrives fresh from his banishment, not from the court of Henry V, but from the ‘court’ of the national comedy circuit.” 

Actor Geoffrey Kent, who will play Doctor Caius, says the production might have audiences remembering a little “ring-a-ding-ding.” Think of it as Shakespeare by way of the Brat Pack and “Dirty Dancing.” 

“Our ‘Merry Wives’ concept makes me want to go back and watch Dean Martin roasts,” says Kent, who also is directing ‘The Tempest’ at CSF this summer. 

‘The Merry Wives of Windsor,’ one of Shakespeare’s most popular comedies, is actually three plays in one: a raucous Italian sex farce, a young-love-denied story and a final festive masque, filled with contemporary references, fairies, and perhaps even more terrifying, child performers. 

Television and film actor Michael Winters, best known for his role as the fussy Taylor Doose on ‘Gilmore Girls,’ will play Falstaff not just in this beloved farce, but also in ‘Henry IV, Part 1’ (opens July 18) and two ‘original practices’ performances of ‘Henry IV, Part 2’ (July 27 and Aug. 3). 

“Much of Falstaff’s appeal is his lack of concern for the constraints of civilization,” Winters says. “He has no concept of coloring inside the lines. His wit, shrewdness and almost complete lack of shame represent a kind of total freedom from what is expected of us in society.” 

Courtesy photo: Michael Winters