Shakespeare rendition acted in English, sung in German

Natalie A. Cole

The Merry Wives of Windsor,” playing for the first time at Cal State Northridge last weekend, was captivating, especially when one has an appreciation of what goes on backstage.

“The Merry Wives of Windsor” is an original Shakespeare play. The version performed at CSUN is an altered work by Carl Otto Nicolai, which consists of a comic opera in two acts. The operatic play is directed by Daniel Helfgot. The dialogue is in English and the songs are in German. Supertitles are projected on a screen above the stage, translating the German songs into English so the audience can follow along.

“The rehearsal process for me started two months before the actual rehearsals started,” said Julie Bermel, 24, a vocal arts major. “We are multi-tasking by doing singing, acting and translating the songs in our minds because we are speaking a different language.”

The play is filled with romance, drama and lots of laughs. The audience laughed along with this well performed opera. Six important roles of the play are also double casted so the actors are not consistently present on stage for the six runs of the show.

“The Merry Wives of Windsor” is about the drama that unfolds and surrounds citizens of a town called Windsor. Falstaff, played by Justin Lunsford, is an over-the-top knight who has sent letters to two women in the town by the names of Frau Fluth (Linda Jackson / Julie Bermel) and Frau Reich (Jennifer Haren / Anna Larsen). While discussing the contents of the letters, they discover they have both been given the same letter. Shocked by Falstaff’s audacity, Frau Fluth and Frau Reich plot to get back at him.

Meanwhile, Anna (Oxana Senina / Sari Haidar), the daughter of Herr Reich (Tony Moresi) and Frau Reich, are being courted by three men who want to propose. The three men include Sparlich (Brian Kim / Chad Ruyle), who her father prefers, Dr. Caius, a French man who her mother prefers and Fenton who Anna prefers.

Other cast members include Sarah Modelowitz (narrator), Travis Haase (Herr Fluth), Sean McCormac (Tomsman) and Mykel Jay (Servant). Roxana Monge, Rina Mata and Beth Reichgott, who play Bar Wenches.

The cast is comprised of 19 students and a 16-student chorus. Some cast members also sing in the chorus. Accompanying the play was the CSUN Symphony, led by John Roscigno, the orchestra’s music director.

“Working with the cast was awesome,” said Charlie Kim, a 20-year-old vocal performance major. “Everyone encourages each other and everyone tries to foster everyone’s creativity. We all have a good chemistry together.”

The costumes are beautifully crafted and stay true to the time period of the 1500s. Everybody that graces the stage wore authentic Shakespearean costumes, including the chorus. “The music department has really joined with the theatre department in a beautiful way,” said Sarah Modelowitz, a 21-year-old theatre major.

The set was an outdoor view of two buildings. One set was directly in front of the audience and the other was a view of an apartment building. A white sheet covered the inside and was removed for the last scene, which took place in Windsor Forest.

Lights also help elevate the mood, which include darker lights for the scenes at night and green toned lights for the forest scene. A bar scene is cast in brown toned lights.

The comic opera was well done. The play made the audience laugh all throughout and it was very enjoyable.

The cast sang beautifully in German and the diction was well executed. If anything were left for improvement it would have been the volume of the songs. At times, it was hard to hear the vocals of the actors but using microphones could easily solve that.

All in all this play is recommended to anyone and everyone. It is classical drama and a nice way to spend and evening and even a Sunday afternoon.

“The music department has really joined with the theatre department in a beautiful way,” said Sarah Modelowitz who is a 21-year-old Theatre major.

The play just finished its first weekend, which was March 2-4. The last three showings take place this weekend from March 9-11. It is well worth the time and money.