The Public Theater's free Shakespeare in the Park production of Merry Wives, an adaptation of Shakespeare's Merry Wives of Windsor penned by Jocelyn Bioh, begins performances July 6.
Directed by Associate Artistic Director and Resident Director Saheem Ali, the production will officially open July 27 and continue through September 18. The Public will close out the summer with its annual gala September 20, featuring a performance of Merry Wives.
The cast features Abena as Anne Page, Shola Adewusi as Mama Quickly, Gbenga Akinnagbe as Mister Nduka Ford, Pascale Armand as Madam Ekua Page, MaYaa Boateng as Fenton/Simple, Phillip James Brannon as Pastor Evans, Joshua Echebiri as Slender/Pistol, Jacob Ming-Trent as Falstaff, Julian Rozzell Jr. as Shallow, Kyle Scatliffe as Mister Kwame Page, David Ryan Smith as Doctor Caius, and Susan Kelechi Watson as Madam Nkechi Ford with ensemble members Brandon E. Burton, Branden Lindsay, Ebony Marshall-Oliver, Jarvis D. Matthews, and Jennifer Mogbock.
Set in South Harlem amid a vibrant and eclectic community of West African immigrants, Merry Wives tells the story of the trickster Falstaff and the wily wives who outwit him in a new celebration of Black joy, laughter, and vitality.
The outdoor production also has scenic design by Beowulf Boritt, costume design by Dede Ayite, lighting design by Jiyoun Chang, co-sound design by Kai Harada and Palmer Hefferan, original music by Michael Thurber, fight direction by Rocío Mendez, choreography by Darrell Grand Moultrie, hair, wigs, and make-up design by Cookie Jordan, and sound system design by Jessica Paz. Narda E. Alcorn serves as production stage manager.
“The New York theatre is opening again at long last, and it belongs to everyone. Free Shakespeare in the Park is the most democratic of civic spaces, and for The Delacorte to launch the re-opening of New York’s theatre is a beautiful reminder of all the hopes we have for our city’s future,” said Artistic Director Oskar Eustis in an earlier statement. “Merry Wives of Windsor is Shakespeare's most purely light-hearted play; its comic targets are men’s vanity, jealousy, and self-absorption, its heroines are women of wit, strength, and power. Our production is set in contemporary South Harlem among the African diasporic community in New York, and that's not an accident. We are returning with a celebration of our immigrant communities of color and our certainty that Shakespeare can belong to all people, no matter who you are. We are back. New York is back. Come to Central Park to celebrate!”
The Public Theater recently increased capacity for Merry Wives. The Delacorte Theater will allow for 1,468 audience members at each performance—approximately 80 percent seating capacity at the outdoor venue. Seating will be in two sections: full capacity sections for those who are COVID-19 vaccinated, and a physically distanced section recommended for those who are not. Proof of vaccination is not required for entry. Masks are required for all, regardless of vaccination status. For more information about safety protocols, click here.
Free tickets are distributed, two per person, via an advanced digital lottery hosted by Goldstar through its app and website.