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We hope not!

Weird Sister Courtney Glenn recently wrote and published the following article about our upcoming play and the issues surrounding it.
Originally published on theexaminer.com June 29, 2011

A Midsummer Night’s Pipe Dream? Austin’s Weird Sisters Vie for Same Sex Marriage

“Full of vexation come I, with complaint against my child, my daughter Hermia.”

So speaks the character of Egeus in one of Shakespeare’s most famous (and most performed) comedies, A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The story is one we’ve heard before (Romeo and Juliet, anyone?) — two lovers, barred from marrying one another by the will of a meddling parent. Since it’s a comedy, it all works out in the end — Lysander and Hermia get hitched, as do the other pair of lovers, Demetrius and Helena. Midsummer is literally a fairy tale (just ask Oberon, Titania and Puck) and so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that there is a happily ever after.

Of course, the Weird Sisters Women’s Theater Collective rarely take “happily ever after” at face value.

For the last seven years, the Austin’s Weirds have been putting their feminist spin on Shakespearean classics. From their first production, an adaptation of Macbeth called The Weird Sisters, Hand in Hand, this collaborative, all-female theater group has been addressing gender equality in an imaginative way.

This year, however, the Weird Sisters are planning to tackle a very specific civil rights issue: same-sex marriage.

“Finding resonances of today’s world in Shakespeare’s plays is so easy to do and so satisfying,” says Dr. Susan Todd, co-founder and director of the Weird Sisters. “In considering A Midsummer Night’s Dream for the Weird Sisters’ own midsummer rumble, I had to think about the play’s fit to contemporary issues.”

And what’s a more fitting contemporary issue than same-sex marriage? In New York, the Marriage Equality Act goes into effect on July 24, 2011, and while Texas doesn’t seem to be particularly close to doing the same, the Weird Sisters are hopeful that change is on the horizon. Through its setting in present-day Austin and the clever gender bending switch of the male LysandER to the female LysandRA, their adaptation of the classic addresses the possibility of same-sex marriage legalization in Texas.

“Nowadays, a father like Egeus might rant about his of-age daughter marrying a guy he doesn’t like, but he wouldn’t have the law on his side,” says Todd. “That’s not so in the case of a daughter wanting to marry another woman–or a son another man. The Texas law would stand firmly on the side of the patriarch, as is depicted in the first scene of Midsummer. Theseus is a perfect match for Rick Perry, or any figurehead of any state that has yet to legalize same-sex marriage.”

To Alyson Curtis, a long-time Weird Sister, there’s a sub-issue at stake in the legalization of same-sex marriage that she is happy to address on stage. She is concerned that, “…women, in particular gay women, are often overlooked in our patriarchal society even within the gay community.” Since the Weird Sisters are primarily a feminist theater group, it’s no surprise that they have twisted the tale to explore same-sex marriage from the female perspective. “As we move forward in our thinking as a society and the walls surrounding hetero marriage crumble down, it’s often the two tuxedos on the wedding cake that we imagine first; it’s not two brides in full wedding gowns that comes to mind,” says Curtis. “With our version of Midsummer, we’ll bring this dynamic front and center, exploring the issue of gay marriage in an imaginary patriarchal world, not unlike our own.”

“A world not unlike our own” is a key phrase when it comes to the Weirds’ August production. Though it has a particularly strong LGBT community, Austin is only one city in a state that often seems bogged down with antiquated ideals. But Dr. Susan Gayle Todd is hopeful:

“With the recent ratification of same-sex marriage in New York, Texas couples like our Hermia and Lysandra hang in the balance between oppression and hope. I like to think this Dream is not far-fetched.”

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Weird Sister, Rae Petersen’s one-woman performance of Crazy Bette was awarded the coveted “Best of the Best” slot in the Austin’s 2011 Frontera Fest.

A clip her the performance can be seen in this video.

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The following is excerpted from www.TheExaminer.com, in a review dated June 22, 2010 penned by Ryan E. Johnson, Austin Theater Examiner. Read the full review here

Clare, Sycorax and baby CalibanThe Tempest has been hailed as one of William Shakespeare’s greatest plays, and has delighted audiences and readers for centuries, but there’s always one character that puzzles most of those who experience the play, and that’s the witch Sycorax. This enigmatic figure has been the subject of much research and theories amongst analysts and fans alike, and now Austin’s own Weird Sisters Theater Collective has decided to show the world their interpretation of the past of this Algerian witch with Sycorax. This original work, written by Susan Gayle Todd, re-imagines the old crone most know as a lesbian healer, tortured by the vengeful spirit Ariel and pushed around by those who she most tried to help. Todd’s piece, directed by the author and Christa French, takes the characters we all know and love from the original play and turns them upside down, making it an intriguing experience for anyone familiar with the play, though it might be a bit of a challenge for those unfamiliar with Shakespeare’s work.

As the play begins, and we’re presented with each of the characters, a major problem rears its ugly head: these woman, on the whole, make rather unconvincing men. They may stick hair to their chins, and try to talk in the manliest accents they can muster, but there’s a certain femininity that they just can’t hide. Despite this setback, many members of the supporting cast create some memorable moments, especially the group of women playing the sailors. Full of fire and vinegar, they’re a vulgar and rowdy bunch, bringing out a lot of chuckles with their raunchy stories and caustic jabs, creating some of the most memorable segments of the play. Another fine moment comes when the actors come together to create a puppet show, a colorful, tongue-in-cheek exploration of mob mentality, which creates a comical interlude before one of the play’s most tragic momoments.

The cast is comparatively large, but in truth, the meat of the play comes from only three characters: Sycorax, played by Azure D. Osborne-Lee, her girlfriend, Clare, played by Noelle Fitzsimmons, and Ariel, played by Feliz Dia McDonald. Of these, McDonald’s Ariel stands out as best, the furious, bold, cocky sprite a complete contradiction to the Ariel we’ve all known from Shakespeare’s tale. McDonald’s Ariel moves with the grace and litheness of the dancer, bending and squatting with ritualistic motions, her long soliloquy in the middle of the play making for a frightening experience. Osborne-Lee plays Sycorax as a woman wronged, who has everything she could ever want, only to have it all pulled away from her. She handles the highest levels of emotion with skill, her anger or heartbreak roaring across the stage like a tidal wave, but when she needs to pull back to get in touch with her tender or sensitive side, something falls away, and she loses a touch of her believability. The odd woman out here is Fitzsimmons as Clare, who’s acting style just seems too modern for this production.  Her mannerisms and look seem as if they were plucked from a different plays, and are completely out of place in the world of the play. She carries her final monologue with some flare, but on the whole, she never reaches the heights required to match the performances of the rest of the main cast.

Barleycorn and CreadyThis take on the life of Sycorax is a bizarre one, and the liberties taken with well-known characters may anger some fans of The Tempest, but most will find the experience worthwhile. Though they never truly convince the audience of their masculinity, the actors offer respectable performances, especially McDonald as Ariel, rising head-and-shoulders above the rest of the ensemble to create one of the most

fascinating characters will see for some time. It may not hit all the right notes for all visitors, but it shows the Weird Sisters Theatre Collection as a growing company moving in the right direction, which deserves a much bigger audience.

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The following is excerpted from www.theAustinist.com, in a review dated June 24, 2010 penned by Georgia Young. Read the full review here >

Sycorax and ClareWoe to the women of Shakespeare! It seems so many of them can be filed into two neat categories: fools who sacrifice their lives for love, and evil hags. However, contemporary theatermakers often take advantage of the playwright’s cadaverous status to reinterpret his work (and well they should).

Hence Sycorax, a new play by Susan Gayle Todd, of the Weird Sisters Women’s Theater Collective, which produced this production at a new performance space, the Gemini Playhouse. This play, a response to The Tempest, focuses on Sycorax, mother of Caliban. Opening with text taken from Shakespeare’s play, the audience gets a quick rundown of the situation: we meet Prospero, an exiled Italian duke and sorceror, living on an island with his teenage daughter, Miranda; a spirit, Ariel; and the beastly Caliban. Prospero subjugates all three—his offspring seems like a helpless flake, Ariel is constantly threatened by Prospero’s power (he freed Ariel from imprisonment by Sycorax in a tree), and Caliban is bossed around and reminded that his mother was a “foul witch.” There’s plenty to respond to here, and Todd has chosen to focus on the woman who receives only brief mention in Shakespeare’s text, but whose impact on Ariel and Caliban reverberate. We know little of Sycorax: she was apparently banished from Algiers for sorcery and dumped, pregnant, on this remote island.

That leaves plenty of room for interpretation, and Todd writes this woman as a black, lesbian healer, who—surprise surprise—is useful to those in power only until they get themselves in trouble and need somebody to blame. Todd follows the arc of Sycorax’s life, the rise of her reputation as a sort of shaman-doctor bringing her financial comfort and fame, her romantic partnership with a female assistant, and her run-ins with the sometimes embarrassing, sometimes vicious behavior of powerful men. The play hops between this progression and her voyage to the island, her punishment as a scapegoat for the vanities and waste of the governor of Algiers. Imprisoned, oddly, on the ship’s deck, sailors eye her warily, telling piggish jokes and sexist stories and urging one particularly wimpy looking deckhand to use her as he will.

Acting ability ranges widely—the all-female cast handles male roles with varying success, though the caricatured feel of many of the masculine roles doesn’t seem out of place, since Todd’s text has nothing nice to say about any of them. Azure Osborne-Lee’s sturdy, resolute Sycorax contrasts with Feliz Dia McDonald’s puckish, sharp-toothed Ariel, and Noelle Fitzsimmons, as Sycorax’s lover Clare, radiates a goofy sweetness that makes the relationship feel genuine….

The story itself is interesting, though the bawdy sailor talk sometimes drags, and there’s a female circumcision scene that somehow manages to be both yucky, inoffensive, and unclear (a peek at the program clarified what was going on). Todd writes a rich life for Sycorax, but there are a few confusing points. In her portrayal of Ariel and Sycorax’s relationship, Ariel appears to have lent magical power to Sycorax most of her life, jealously criticizing and sabotaging her relationships. The spirit, in spite of his apparent position of power, seems to profess that he is serving Sycorax—this falls in line with Shakespeare’s text, but leaves unanswered questions about how Sycorax is able to eventually trap him and how Prospero is able to control him later.

Another question that must be asked of this feminist response to The Tempest is why Todd doesn’t address the issue of Prospero’s daughter, Miranda. In her brief appearances in Sycorax, Miranda is still a dreamy, dopey teenager, in thrall to the only two men she has ever known—her father and Caliban. The play closes with an imagined scene between Caliban and Miranda, taking place before the time of The Tempest, an apparently mutually romantic moment, (perhaps meant to portray what Prospero implied was Caliban’s attempted rape of the girl). The scene ties up Todd’s story nicely, as Caliban tells the story of his mother and father, mirroring Sycorax’s own fantastical self-penned origin story earlier in the play. Todd mostly maintains a sharp focus on Sycorax, but this final scene leaves one wondering why the black, lesbian healer got a voice, while poor Miranda was left as tongue-tied as ever.

Todd and the Weird Sisters have created a rich slice of one woman’s world. Sycorax may not be a particularly direct critique of The Tempest, but it fills in a gap in one of Shakespeare’s universes, an interesting exercise for a Bard-focused theater group.

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The following is excerpted from www.AustinLiveTheater.com, in a review dated June 23, 2010 penned by Michael Meigs. Read the full review here >

Susan Gayle Todd, a founding member of the six-year-old Weird Sisters Theater Collective, rolled Shakespeare’s canvas back, locating a wide, almost blank panel.  It was barely touched with the outline of Sycorax, a hint of Ariel’s service to the witch, and an unelaborated event in Algiers that resulted in banishment, since “for one thing she did/ They would not take her life.”   Todd tells the imagined story of Sycorax as a woman healer, an African woman in Arabic Algiers.

The David Mark Cohen New Play Festival at the University of Texas featured the first production of this script two years ago. The Sisters’  staging of Todd’s story is an audacious undertaking. Their aim is both artistic and didactic, in keeping with the collective’s 2004 manifesto, which reads, in part “we celebrate women—female artists, and even fictitious female characters who shape our understanding of real-live women—who have been silenced or vilified as a result of pervading, institutionalized sexism.”  As rendered, this new panel of canvas is dark but touched with vivid incident and accompanied by Chris Humphrey’s music, rhythmic and evocative  both of north Africa and of the sub-Sahara.

Sycorax’s healing powers are evident but mysterious even to herself.  The ghost of her deceased mother visits and assists her, as does the spirit Ariel, who in this telling is by turns conniving, malevolent and devilish.  Sycorax acquires an apprentice, Clare, an abused teenage woman who has refused her family’s command to marry, and the two carry on twenty years of successful healing.  Theirs is a relationship of intimacy and trust, incomprehensible and scandalous to the folk of Algiers.

Todd, a Shakespeare scholar and teacher with a recent Ph.D. from the University of Texas, opens the play with a lengthy extract from the exposition in Act I, Scene 2, before moving back in time to Algiers.  The narrative switches forward and back in time, with the voyage to banishment interrupted by scenes of Sycorax’s apprenticeship, her healing career, a duplicitous success in treating the sterility of the governor of Algiers, witch-hunting by the populace seeking a scapegoat for the ravages of a tempest, a lively mocking puppet show, and her arrival on the island accompanied by Ariel.

Central both visually and in terms of plot is the enigmatic relationship between the lithe, dancing, precise and sparkling Ariel (Feliz Dia McDonald) and the Sycorax generations.  Azure D. Osborne-Lee plays both Sycorax the healer and her offspring Caliban.  Osborne-Lee is strong of bone and body, assertive and yet uncertain of her gifts.

Playwright Todd moves these characters between the realm of the physical and that of the spiritual.  We do not know whether Ariel is a mere fevered imagining for Sycorax or a familiar spirit with powers.  The rabble of Algiers burn Clare as a witch but Clare continues as a living presence in the life and misfortunes of Sycorax.

In Todd’s story the grateful governor of Algiers commissions a full-size onyx statue of Sycorax.  It’s a handy symbol and a vivid image but highly unlikely, given the severe Koranic prohibition of portraits and representational images. (Curiously,the ban doesn’t apply to puppetry, and shadow puppetry is a tradition in the Arabic Middle East.)  Swallowing hard and indulging the author, one might imagine that the clueless governor’s commission of a statue was a last, unacceptable folly that drove the crowds to fury.

By Weird Sister tradition, women perform all roles, including sailors who are saltier dogs than you’ll ever find in Shakespeare.  Those navvies circle Sycorax in her circle on deck as she glowers at them.  One tells a long, grotesque tall tale about a man whose private parts were witched away.  Another turns away from the audience and mimes urinating in a corner.

We witness as Sycorax confines Ariel in a cloven pine, a scene that’s deftly conceived, beautifully directed and rich with a symbolism that the playwright is perceptive and delicate enough not to comment upon.

The final scene shows Caliban, young and full of hope, recounting a lengthy mythic tale of his ancestors and himself to a worshipful Miranda (Rachel Florence Briles).  She huddles at his side in hypnotised adoration, eyes fastened upon him, hands brushing his side, her legs posed upon his.   Caliban’s attention is upward, toward the moon overhead.   He  reaches the moment of apotheosis in his tale just as Vicky Yoder as Prospero materializes in the depth of the stage and stops to take in the scene.

Todd’s language is a rich prose.  Some of Ariel’s incantatory passages have the rhythm of verse.

The Weird Sisters have no fixed venue, and this year they chose to use a new performance space.  The Gemini Playhouse is a tidy, new-painted studio at the back of a single-story complex of offices and workspaces at 5214 Burleson Road, south of 71/Ben White Boulevard and east of I-35. Driving east, you’ll take the Montopolis exit, then right immediately onto Chapman and left onto Burleson.  It’s on the north side of the road, just past a sizable tree and back behind the now-closed workshop of Camino Azul Custom Tattoo.  They’re friendly folk.  They’ll welcome you, take your voluntary contribution and provide you with refreshments and an evening of thought and entertainment.

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Review of Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet) published by Austin Live Theatre. August, 2009. Review written by Michael Meigs.

The Weird Sisters Theatre Collective’s Goodnight Desdemona, Good Morning Juliet was a very Austin event. The Sisters performed Anne-Marie MacDonald’s broad feminist satire of Shakespeare and stuffy scholars in the backyard at the one and only Cathedral of Junk in South Austin, just a few blocks south of 290W/Ben White Boulevard. 

Closing night last Saturday was full, as a wide mix of folks filled up the very miscellaneous and inventive collection of chairs. Proprietor Vince Hannemann was rustling up seats right up till the opening, and he received a special ovation from the Sisters and the audience afterwards for his broad-spirited hosting.

The fun-loving feminist group was doing its fifth summer production. Their lengthy 2004 manifesto remains very much in effect. It begins, “WEIRD: We mean WEIRD in its original sense: wayward . We challenge the status quo, for we know that most theater drifts and defaults to old, hegemonic ways of interpreting, casting, directing, and producing.”

This is a loopy “what-if?” story about a woman academic, much neglected, misled and patronized by her thoughtlessly arrogant male supervisor.

Constance Ledbelly is struggling to write her thesis on Shakespeare. She has become intrigued by the fact that in neither Othello nor in Romeo and Juliet does a fool appear. If only a truth-teller like Touchstone or Feste or Lear’s fool had entered the stories,she reasons, these tales could have turned out not as trumped-up tragedies but as comedies. She assumes, then, originals by earlier authors, from which Shakespeare had erased the fool as an inconvenience . . . .

Leslie Guerrero as the prologue invited us to exercise our imaginations and to go with the ride, and quite a ride it was. After Connie’s puzzling over a mysterious scrap of undeciphered manuscript, a team of futuristic garbage workers erupts on the stage and appears to carry Connie off to the fields of her imaginings. The rest of Act I plays in Othello’s Cyprus just as Iago uses his handkerchief ploy to besmirch Desdemona’s honor. Act II moves to the streets of Verona just as Tybalt challenges Mercutio.

Connie ponders: why couldn’t someone just have told Othello what Iago was up to and thereby have saved everyone all the trouble? And since the quarreling in Verona occurs only because the lovers’ marriage is kept secret, why not blurt it out before the fighting starts? Once she has gotten oriented to her mindblowing transition into Shakespeare’s imaginings, Connie becomes the wise fool and does just those two things, with quite unexpected results.

Chris Humphrey plays wistful academic Constance Ledbelly with solemn sincerity. Initially downcast, she gives in to self-pity only for one brief moment, just before the garbage squad erupts onstage. The rest of the time she is mildly amazed, quizzical and engaged in the extravagant events. This is a droll turn and she’s very sympathetic throughout.

Vicki Yoder, the tallest of the group and the most robust in appearance, plays all of the swaggerers: clueless Professor Claude Night, Othello, and quarrelsome Tybalt. Lauren Schultz is her adversary as Iago and Romeo. They have a grand time with it all, and their acting styles are just two shades short of saloon melodrama.

The Desdemona story plays the smoothest. We find that Desdemona, played by Christa French, is more of a Diane or Amazon than a sheltered wifey. Desdemona welcomes Connie into warrior life in Cyprus as a trusted sage, quite overcoming our middle-aged academic. Iago keeps at his tricks but can’t discredit Connie.

Playwright MacDonald plays Connie’s bewildered ordinary speech against the surge of blank verse she invents for Shakespeare’s characters, and this technique raises the tone of these near-farcical doings to comedy pitch.

The second act does not rise to that level. Once Montagues and Capulets are reconciled, our Juliet (Noelle Fitzsimmons) quickly gets bored with the lack of romantic tension. There’s a truly dumb joke and pratfalls about a turtle separated from his shell, Romeo and Juliet quarrel, and Juliet falls instead for Connie the wise man. And then, after a revelation, for Connie the wise woman.

There’s some innocent bawdy, including the fencers’ parading of manly groin protectors. Eventually characters from both plays, deprived of their motives and cues for passion, gang up on poor Constance, who narrowly ‘scapes stifling.

She scolds them with a lesson that she has just learned for herself: life is not simple, it’s not about great passions, it’s messy and you just do the best you can.

Audience, players, and techs all had a fine time with these transformations. The players had conned their parts well and gloried in the saucy foolishness of it all. After all, what riper subjects are there for affectionate mockery than Shakespeare and academia?

For this 1988 work, her first, Canadian playwright Anne-Marie MacDonald received the Canadian Governor General’s Award, the Floyd S. Chalmers Canadian Play Award and the Canadian Author’s Association Award.

Twenty years later, we were privileged to get the Austin spin on it.

For example, at one point Connie learns that she will be assigned to the university at Lubbock. “Lubbock!! But it’s so flat and absolutist there! I’m a relativist!”

And so are most of us, here in Austin. That’s why we enjoy our theatre and entertainment with a twist and a twinkle.

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Originally posted in November 2008 at Austin Live Theatre:

Turnabout is fair play might be the theme for The Merry Wives of Windsor. Penurious, lascivious Sir John Falstaff is out for “cony catching” throughout the play but he just can’t learn his lesson. Falstaff (Courtney Brown) aims to trick and seduce the merry wives of the title: Mistress Margaret Page (Leslie Guerrero, left) and Mistress Alice Ford (Christa French, right).”

Page & FordHighly amused by his presumptions, the good ladies entice the lecher to assignations three times, and each time they set him up. Hiding in a clothes basket, Falstaff is carried offstage to be dumped into the muck; cowering before discovery by a maddened husband, he disguises himself and flees as a witchy old crone; and finally, in an apparently enchanted glade, Sir Jack is pinched and pursued by townspeople disguised as fairies.

In fact, you could imagine Turnabout is fair play would be a pretty good heraldic device for the Weird Sisters Women’s Theatre Collective. This is the fourth full-length presentation by a group of women whose manifesto celebrates “the company of powerful, adventurous, wise women, with whom we foster strong, deep relationships.” They use the collective to express themselves, free of gender oppression.

As in their earlier presentations, the Sisters assemble an all-female cast. After all, Shakespeare’s company was all male, wasn’t it? This casting strategy works perfectly well in theatrical space, where the audience is happily complicit in the willing suspension of disbelief.

This is not one of Shakespeare’s better comedies, but theatrical legend excuses that in part by asserting that he wrote it in a rush at the request of Queen Elizabeth I, who wanted to see the hugely comic Falstaff in a romantic comedy.

Falstaff here has none of the canny skills of his pickled, cajoling, irate persona in the Henry IV plays. Out in Windsor, he is a clown and slave to all his appetites, fit to be gull’d and mocked. Sir Jack is a bigger, bolder, caricature version of the merry wives’ own husbands (and by implication, a stand-in for all that’s gross about the male gender).

No wonder the cast takes such enthusiastic delight in the bawdy allusions to cocks, erections, horns and cuckoos.

Director Susan Todd sets the play in the fictional town of Windsor, Texas in the mid-1950’s. She and the collective must have had fun assembling the slide show of ads and snapshots from that time, which amuses us 21st century folk with the gender stereotypes from back then. Before the action begins, we hear Elvis, Patsy Cline, and contemporary recordings of ads and music from a radio station in Midland.

The costumes for female characters are a colorful, corny gala of middle class fashion of the time (love those Capri pants, Anne Page!).

Shakespeare’s language in broad Texas accents? It works! That makes it all the funnier. As the aged Justice Shallow, Chris Humphrey is a cantankerous Texas justice of the peace to the life. Loquacious and brassy in the person of Mistress Quickly, Hollie Baker is part Dolly Parton, part Goldie Hawn.

Courtney Brown is a hoot as Jack Falstaff, visiting star of a broken down rock band. Wrapped in Elvis pompadour and sideburns, she delivers her role with shameless assurance.

This troupe has good fun addressing the audience. Silly quarrels between silly prospective suitors to young Anne Page entertain us. The rivalries of the inept make them foils to Falstaff’s less scrupulous intentions of seduction.

Shakespeare was showcasing Falstaff, in a sort of Fat Jack III. But in this presentation, with the original text essentially intact, director Todd succeeds in focusing instead on the journey of Frank Ford, husband to one of the merry wives.

Ford’s counterpart Page (Penny Smith) is not at all discomfited when they learn of the curious, identical love letters Falstaff has sent to the ladies. But Ford (Vicki Yoder) torments himself with jealousy and uncertainty over the virtue of his wife.

So of course, he makes things worse. He insinuates himself into Falstaff’s company under the guise of “Master Brook” (Brook – Ford – get it?) and suborns the knight with a packet of cash to seduce Mistress Ford so as to make her available for conquest. Sir Jack is happy to take money for the job he’s already got underway.

Falstaff’s succeeding accounts and assurances drive Ford further around the bend, so that he grows more disturbed and more comic with each succeeding incident.But at the finale, with doubt resolved and virtue rewarded, Ford reveals that his alter ego “Brook” does, after all, have the prospect of sleeping with Mistress Ford.

Vicki Yoder is so impressive in the role of Ford/Brook that during the intermission I was wondering whether she might have been better cast as Falstaff, the lord of misrule. She has the presence, expression and physical stature to have handled that interpretation.

But then, this is the Weird Sisters Collective. It is appropriate that Sir Jack remain smooth and mostly unrepentant, because would-be seducers are always out there. The better choice was to invest an actor/actress of Yoder’s depth in a character who comes to redemption.

There is a lovely non-Shakespeare moment in the second half when Miss Anne Page (Johnson) is dancing in a darkened hall with her true beloved, Master Fenton (Martina Ohlhauser). She snuggles close, surprising the awkward Fenton, and kisses him. Then as they rotate in dreamland, that self-assured daughter reaches down and with one hand takes possession of his rump. Fade out. We know that there will be no one else in her future, once the plots get untangled.

Most of the other characters are silly quarrelers with impossibly funny accents or henchmen (henchpersons). But in passing, a couple of special tips of the hat: to Aména Moïnfar as the unsurprised servant to the French physician and to Brooks Louton as servant Peter Simple, stammeringly intimidated.

No curtain call for this cast! They exited from the dénouement straight out to the Vortex café, where they received friends and supporters streaming out from the theatre.

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