Utah Shakespeare Festival and the Merry Wives

When I was looking for things to do on our days off, I ran across the Utah Shakespeare Festival and thought it would be perfect.  The Utah Shakespeare Festival runs from the end of June until the middle of October every year on the campus of Southern Utah University.  After visiting Cedar Breaks National Monument, we drove to Cedar City to see a play.

Tom and I spent considerable time discussing what play to see.  The Utah Shakespeare Festival presents nine different plays and four of them are by William Shakespeare.  Although I was interested in the musical “Big River,” it seemed like we should see a play by Shakespeare.  The choices this year are “The Merry Wives of Windsor,” “Henry VI,” “The Merchant of Venice,” and “Othello.”  Of those plays, three are tragedies and one is a comedy.  Tom and I definitely preferred a comedy but “The Merry Wives of Windsor” is set in the early 1900’s.  We haven’t had much luck with “modern” stagings of Shakespearean plays, but decided to give it a shot.

I am so glad we did.  The repertoire company was excellent and the comedy was as broad as Shakespeare can make it.  In case you aren’t familiar with the story, here is a synopsis.  Falstaff fancies himself a lady’s man and decides to seduce two housewives.  The housewives find out his plot and manage to foil his advances and teach him a lesson.  At the same time they teach their husbands something about fidelity and marry off a daughter.

The first act of the play sets everything up, and it seemed a little slow-moving and confusing as we tried to keep all the characters straight.  It also took us a while to adjust to the Shakespearean language of the play.  The costumes were updated but the language wasn’t.  By the second act we figured out the characters and were following the language better.  Of course, the second act also has the broadest comedy.  All the plots set up in the first act come to fruition in the second.

We saw “The Merry Wives of Windsor” in the open-air Engelstad Theatre.  The theater seats about 900 and it was full the night we were there.  It was also very warm.  I was very impressed that the actors didn’t seem to mind the heat.  I was sweating as I sat in the audience.

During intermission Tom and I went to the balcony to get a little breeze and cool off.  As we were standing there, Alan and Rebecca Rubin walked by below us.  I hallooed them and we ran down to talk to them for a few minutes.  Alan was my PhD adviser at Kent State.  They live in Sedona now and had come up for several plays.  Unfortunately we didn’t have long to talk, but what are the odds of even seeing them at all?

The Utah Shakespeare Festival is a very big deal in Utah.  This is its 56th season and it puts on quality productions that draw 120,000 visitors to Cedar City every summer and fall.  I would definitely return to see another show.