There's a logical explanation as to why The Merry Wives of Windsor is one of Shakespeare's least-produced works, according to director Kevin Landis.
"If you take the Shakespearean canon, it isn't one of the better-written plays," says the UCCS theater instructor. "When you read it on the page, it seems like a sloppily written show."
But, he adds, "When you actually put it on, it's hysterical."
Landis, who will direct Merry Wives to open TheatreWorks' 2010-11 season, calls it "Falstaff's play." A bumbling sidekick to Prince Hal in Henry IV parts 1 and 2, he takes center stage here as a destitute knight (played by TheatreWorks veteran Robert Rais) who foolishly attempts to seduce two women for their money. They, of course, see through his plan and lead the portly protagonist along, turning him into the far-from-virtuous victim.
Landis has opted to transport the play from late 16th-century England to late 19th-century Colorado in hopes of making it more accessible. He wanted to place Merry Wives in an era "not too distant from modern-day realities."
Rock Ledge Ranch, complete with historic structures, farmland and a pond, pegs the bygone era. And so having been presented indoors since 2003, TheatreWorks' annual Shakespeare production will illuminate mid-summer nights again with outdoor evening performances. (The ranch will benefit from 10 percent of ticket sales.)
While Landis takes artistic license with the setting of "Windsor, Colorado" — not to be confused with the real-life Windsor, a small town outside of Fort Collins — he otherwise steers clear of wacky text interpretations. Too often, directors of summer Shakespeare make "wildly ambitious" choices, "like putting Hamlet on the moon," Landis says. "But that doesn't necessarily do justice to the script."