The Shakespeare in the Park production of Merry Wives, which officially opened August 9 at the outdoor Delacorte Theater following previews that began July 6, ends its run September 20 with a gala performance.
The Public Theater’s Annual Gala honors Founder and former Artistic Director Joe Papp, who would have celebrated his 100th birthday in June. The evening also honors Public Works Community Member Vivian Jett Brown with the inaugural Annual Community Leadership Award.
The free staging, an adaptation of Shakespeare's Merry Wives of Windsor penned by Jocelyn Bioh, is directed by Associate Artistic Director and Resident Director Saheem Ali. It was previously announced that the production would be filmed for PBS' Great Performances series.
The opening, originally set for July 27, was postponed following an injury sustained by Jacob Ming-Trent during a performance. During his absence, understudy Brandon E. Burton performed as Falstaff. The Public also canceled performances July 21–23 after a member of the production tested positive for COVID-19.
The opening cast also featured Abena as Anne Page, Shola Adewusi as Mama Quickly (Angela Grovey is now playing 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, 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.