By Mary Boyle
Every live theatre production is unique; that's the wonder of live theatre, or any live performance, really - you'll never see the same show twice. That being said, with the Bard & Bourbon Theatre Company, the differences between shows are even more pronounced because, in every production, at least one of the actors is getting thoroughly drunk. Needless to say, if you want to make one of the Bard's comedies even funnier, just add alcohol. Such is the case with The Merry Wives of Windsor (Drunk).
Joel Kopischke, who played Antonio in B&B's recent production of Twelfth Night, is fabulous as Sir John Falstaff, an obese, cowardly and bumbling knight of the realm who decides that wooing two wealthy, married ladies, Mistress Ford (Samantha Martinson) and Mistress Page (Amber Regan), would be a great way to increase his fortune. Falstaff asks his men, Bardolph (Robin Christiansen) and Pistol (Keighley Sadler) to deliver identical love letters to the wives, but when they refuse to deliver the letters, Falstaff sacks them, and the two men seek their revenge by telling the ladies' husbands, Ford (Emmitt Morgans) and Page (LeAnn Vance), about what Falstaff is up to.
Page is unconcerned, but Ford, who is a jealous man, suspects his wife of cheating, and sets traps to try and catch her and Falstaff. Meanwhile, the wives are disgusted to discover they have both received the same letter from Falstaff, and they have plans of their own for him. Also, in true Shakespearean love-triangle style, while Falstaff is working overtime to woo the wives, Anne Page (Brittany Curran), the Page's daughter, has fallen in love with Fenton (Robin Christiansen), but her father wants her to wed Slender (Rick Bingen), a pathetic slip of a boy dominated by his Uncle Shallow (Danielle Levings), and her mother wants her to wed the French Doctor, Caius (Keighley Sadler). Secrets, bets, disguises, tricks, and traps--Merry Wives has it all, along with shots of bourbon!
Directed by Reva Fox, The Merry Wives of Windsor (Drunk), is just plain fun but, make no mistake, these actors know their Shakespeare. The theater at the Underground Collective is small, and the props are sparse, but the acting is strong—and it has to be, in order to accommodate an increasingly drunk and unpredictable actor. Amazingly, I watched Joel Kopischke down 10 shots of bourbon and still pull off all of his lines! This is the Bard & Bourbon's Shakespeare, and it is as Wisconsin as Shakespeare can get. If you want to put some "merry" in your holidays, you'll find it here.
The Merry Wives of Windsor (Drunk) runs through December 2nd at the Underground Collective, located in the basement level of the Grand Avenue Mall in downtown Milwaukee. Tickets are available by calling 414-792-9223, or online at https://www.bardandbourbon.com/. To keep on top of their season, follow them on Facebook:
If you want to see more Joel Kopischke, catch Joel Kopischke's I Got Yule, Babe at the Waukesha Civic Theater December 5th and 7th!