THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR [Dramatic Revival] A: William Shakespeare; D: David Margulies; CH: Donald Saddler; C: Carrie F. Robbins; L: Martin Aronstein; M: Robert Dennis; P: New York Shakespeare Festival; T: Delacorte Theatre (OB); 7/25/74-8/25/74 (24)
“[A] notably tedious production” is how Julius Novick described this unhappy Central Park presentation of Shakespeare’s comedy about the fat knight, Sir John Falstaff (Barnard Hughes), a work the Bard wrote for strictly commercial reasons. It remains far down on the list of lifetime achievements. Few critics thought the play itself any great shakes; none were very pleased with the uninspired production of David Margulies, better known as an actor than a director.
Novick thought Margulies and company were unable to detect whatever comic qualities the play possessed. In addition to the usually capable Hughes, such talents as Tom Toner as Justice Shallow, Marcia Rodd as Mistress Page, Cynthia Harris as Mistress Ford, Joseph Bova as Frank Ford, and Marilyn Sokol as Mistress Quickly struggled to breathe life into this potboiler.
Aside from a few minor exceptions, the remainder of the company, which included distinguished actors Michael Tucker, George Hearn, Lenny Baker, Kenneth McMillan, Danny DeVito (Danny DeVito!?), and others, was notably ill at ease. Novick thought the overall tone was “dull,” while Mel Gussow said the acting was unsteady, regretted that choreographer Donald Saddler had provided only one “faintly” dancelike scene, and questioned why the play was done if it were not somehow going to be transformed