The University Record, February 6, 1995

Merry Wives takes to the stage Feb. 9

By Tom Loewe
University Productions

The irrepressible, lusty knight errant, Sir John Falstaff, will take the Mendelssohn Theater stage Feb. 9-12 when the Department of Theatre and Drama presents Shakespeare's ever-popular comedy The Merry Wives of Windsor, under the direction of John Neville-Andrews.

The production is dedicated to the memory of Eugene and Sadye Power, enthusiastic supporters of theater and donors of the Power Center for the Performing Arts.

The Feb. 10 performance will be preceded by the department's third annual benefit, with proceeds going to scholarships and programs. Regent Philip A. Power will deliver a tribute at the benefit. Also speaking will be Burnette Staebler, a Department of Theatre and Drama alumna, and Phyllis Wright, long-time theater aficionado. Neville-Andrews and Merry Wives cast members will provide entertainment.

Set in the town of Windsor during the time of Elizabeth, The Merry Wives of Windsor is a colorful potpourri of comic characters whose lives, loves and quarrels are magnificently brought to life through the genius of Shakespeare's pen.

Bert Cardullo, assistant professor of theater and dramaturge for the production, says that Merry Wives is "the only play in the Shakespeare canon that has a contemporary setting. It is Shakespeare's 'citizen' play, dealing with England's emergent and rising middle class.

"Beneath the veneer of comedy and farce," Cardullo explains, "Shakespeare is portraying a society in transition. In fact, money--as opposed to birthright--is becoming the new power in England in the late 1500s. The playwright takes great delight in making fun of those middle-class people who are taking their newly earned success too seriously. He scolds members of this newest class for their habit of selling their daughters off for money, which is a leitmotif throughout the play.

"It is telling," Cardullo adds, "that Shakespeare depicts women in this play as objects of property and not merely for comic effect. Gender, class and commerce are important subjects in this play."

Neville-Andrews notes that the production "will model a rather traditional Elizabethan look, with costumes that are indicative of class, social distinction and position in society.

"The set also will have that period look, giving the entire production of rich Elizabethan feel. And, for the finale, we will feature rich, illustrious and fantastical costumes, as well as masks, to convey a wide range of hobgoblins and fairies."

The benefit will begin at 5:30 p.m. Friday (Feb. 10) with a reception in the Michigan League Ballroom, followed by dinner at 6 p.m. Tickets for the benefit, $100 and $50 per person, are available by calling Linda Bennett, 764-5350.

Corporate sponsors include Detroit Second City Theatre, First Martin Corp., Great Lakes Bancorp, Jacobson Stores Inc., King's Chosen, McKinley Associates Inc. and Standard Federal Bank.

Play tickets--$16 and $20 (reserved seating), $6 student seating--are available 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Friday at the Michigan League Ticket Office and one hour prior to curtain. MasterCard, VISA and Discover are accepted. For information, call 764-0450.