Veanne Cox, a favorite of the Shakespeare Theatre Company, or STC, returns as Margaret Page, nemesis of Falstaff in "The Merry Wives of Windsor." The stage veteran dons the persona of a middle-class British woman following World War I.
"It's easier to play a queen or a pauper than a woman who is perfectly normal and of ordinary circumstances," Cox said. "Mistress Page is generous, fun-loving and friendly like others of the same status. Her friendship with Mistress Ford is special because they rely on each other and band together in a romp to revenge Falstaff. It's all done in a generous spirit of fun, not violence.
"Some people say that this is one of Shakespeare's weakest plays, but it's one of the few he wrote that deals with his own class. Our director, Stephen Rayne, has set it in 1919, when there was a sense of sadness and loss. He's given it a vaudeville flavor and made it a terrific experience, one of the best productions I've ever been in, with a wonderful cast. It's accessible to the audience because it's not so far away as the Elizabethan era and yet not quite contemporary."
The plot revolves around Falstaff's wooing of two matronly women, who keep steps ahead of his schemes to relieve them of their money. The comedic elements appeal to all ages. Indeed, the cast includes youngsters who contribute to the merriment.
|'The Merry Wives of Windsor'|
|Where: Sidney Harman Hall, 610 F St. NW|
|When: Through July 15|
|Info: $20 to $100; 202-547-1122; 877-487-8849; shakespearetheatre.org|
A native of Northern Virginia, Cox was dancing with the Washington Ballet Corps when she saw a production of Bertolt Brecht's "The Good Person of Szechwan" at the Studio Theatre. Instantly, her goals shifted from dance to making people privy to the greatness of theater and drama and how it can transform lives. With the support of STC's artistic director, Michael Kahn, she progressed from small parts to those that set her apart.
"It's important to me to come back to STC as often as possible because of its stature in the theatrical community," she said. (STC received a Tony Award last week as Best Regional Theatre.) "It has built a thriving tradition that other local companies aspire to match. The shows it produces represent a great deal of variety. I love the challenge of variety, whether putting over a song, acting in a classical play, or doing something contemporary and comedic like 'The Merry Wives of Windsor.'
"The audience will squeal with laughter to see the wives become something they are not. They even manage to put Falstaff into a witch's costume. This show is perfect for the summer, when people can escape from the heat into a dark, cool theater. Children on vacation who attend will become excited seeing the children in the cast dressing up as school children, fairies, goblins and witches. It becomes clear that the masks are the big put on."