Live, indoor theater was going to feel weird for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic. Good thing I had a weird show to go to. I hopped a #80 bus and dove into the Deer District to climb through a the crowd assembled for the big Bucks game. I was going to The Best Place Tavern to see the return of Boozy Bard Productions’ Shakespeare Raw staging of The Merry Wives of Windsor.
The tiny, a little bar on the edge of all of the activity last night had a respectable crowd assembled to see a group of talented, comedic Shakespearian actors breeze through an irreverent, little staging of a light comedy. Boozy Bard’s Jeremy Eineichner opened the show with the all-too familiar intro that set the tone and pace. A big part of the show is selling the total informality it all. The cast is just there to have fun with an old script from a beloved, British 16th century Zack Snydery pop storyteller who just happened to be really good with words. Whether or not it’s actually the case, the overall feel is that they’d be doing what they’re doing even if there wasn’t an audience. It is for this reason that it’s always so good that they DO have people coming to see them. They’re having fun. They’re delivering that fun to the audience. And people drink good beer. Huzzah.
Playing the comedic lead of Falstaff was longtime Boozy Bard Brian Bayer. He didn’t know he was going to be playing the character when he got there, of course. (That’s the way it works with Shakespeare Raw. Names and roles are paired through a hat.) The hat can be a bit sketchy. Sometimes the decisions that hat makes as casting director make it seem drunk (or...idunno...inanimate or something.) For the most part, the hat seemed to be playing the casting straight ahead for the first show after “the plague.” Brian was a perfect comedic choice for the silly sinister Falstaff who is looking to woo two wealthy wives at once.
Michelle White and Nick Firer played the wives. Michelle White was a perfect choice. White is a delight. Her open comic energy served the evening well, contrasted as it was by Nick Firer. Firer knew full well that a towering bearded man in the role of a dainty wife was comic enough without amplifying, so he wisely played the role with no hint of exaggeration. You wouldn’t know it just to look at them, but White and Firer made for a perfect pairing.
Brian Bayer is also a musician who writes a new song for every show, performing it on a synthesizer to begin the second half of the show. This time around it was a Merry Wives Journey parody. “ Don’t Stop Deceivin’ ” was a strong choice. It’s the type of thing that gets played quite a bit at tiny bars populated by X-ers and older millennials. It’s powerfully iconic pop stuff. Bayer needed only get the minimalism of the basic suggestion of the song (and synth-approximation of a guitar solo) through the keyboard and it was like...it was like hearing Steve Perry sing about Falstaff of a track recorded thirty years ago. Then Bayer was right back onstage as Falstaff alongside White, Firer and the rest of the cast. Weird. And fun.
Boozy Bard’s Shakespeare Raw: Merry Wives of Windsor was a one-nigh-only thing. Just to see how it feels. (It felt good from where I was sitting.) Past shows can be seen in glorious SurveillanceCameraVision on the Boozy Bard’s YouTube page. Boozy Bard will be announcing upcoming shows as they become apparent. Check out the group’s Facebook page for upcoming announcements. And check out their cool merch on Redbubble.