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Thu, Aug. 22

Shakespeare in the park this weekend

As one is a comedy and one is a tragedy, the energy from the actors is different in each, but one is no less powerful than the other.

"Merry Wives" is a love story with many players and many confusions. Page (Jonathan Perpich) and Ford (Chris McFarland) are two rich men, and Falstaff (David Luben) tries to seduce their wives to get their money.

Mistress Page (Barbara Gardner) and Mistress Ford (Karla Burkitt) discover Falstaff's plan, and try to trick him into public humiliation by giving him hope of winning one or both of their hearts. At the same time, Page and Ford learn of Falstaff's plan, and can't decide whether to trust their wives.

Mistress Page wants her daughter, Anne, (Renee Le Claire) to marry Dr. Caius (Ronnie Clark). Page wants Anne to marry Master Slender (Jared Gregg). But Anne loves Fenton (Nathaniel Montgomery).

Needless to say, three plans for love and one woman combine for some sticky situations.

Perpich and McFarland play the perfect husbands in their situation. Perpich plays the non-jealous husband role perfectly, saying, "I'll turn her loose on him. What he gets from her besides sharp words is on my head." It's almost as if Perpich himself has had a witty and cunning significant other he doesn't mind turning on a foe.

And McFarland plays envious perfectly with tone of voice and body language. His facial expressions add to the play's humor.

Luben really steals the show. His exaggerated bawdy body language makes him funny, even if he remained silent, and his conniving facial expressions when planning juxtapose with his guilty ones when almost caught to provide perfectly funny stuff.

Gardner and Burkitt play funny wives, who truly love their husbands, but can't get enough of trying to humiliate Falstaff. The two of them huddle together like stereotypical sneaky women, hiding truth from their husbands and Falstaff. While much of the humor lies in the actual script, only two very good actresses could make the roles funny – and these two do.

Finally, Le Claire and Montgomery play two starry-eyed (and star-crossed) lovers who can't get enough of each other. Le Claire even wears pink shoes with her pink dress. Perfect! She has a perfectly pretty face for the role, and Montgomery also does for his.

Clark and Gregg play two totally different and equally funny suitors to Anne. Clark plays pompous and stuck up and Gregg plays shy yet perverted, always trying to sneak words with and then avoid Anne, who really arouses him.

Mary Spence directs "Merry Wives," and does a great job, especially with the simple stage and the large number of characters.

"Macbeth" is a story of greed and jealousy. Macbeth and Banquo defeat two armies that attempt to invade Scotland. On their way home to King Duncan, Macbeth (Kelly Johnston) and Banquo (David Pickett) meet three witches (Christel Johnson, Sigrid Gardner and Allyson Finn) who prophesy that Macbeth will become king of Scotland but that Banquo will beget a line of Scottish kings though he'll never be a king himself.

Macbeth goes home and kills Duncan, which makes him king. Then he realizes that he must kill Banquo in order to remain king.

There are ghosts and fairies, witches and hallucinations.

Lady Macbeth (Tracey Mason Johnston) goes crazy after convincing Macbeth to kill Duncan.

Tracey and Kelly Johnston (actually married and married in the play) have great onstage chemistry. The interactions seem natural. Kelly plays a great, greedy-frustrated-mean guy, and Tracey plays a wonderful-conniving-crazy woman. The witches, creepy and funny at the same time, look so ugly they almost shouldn't be allowed on stage, but it makes for a really creepy couple of witch scenes.

Luben reappears as Macduff, whose castle Macbeth seizes, and he really shows acting ability – Macduff is such a different character than Falstaff. Luben shows frustration and anger, as well as humor. This guy is good.

Ronnie Clark (Dr. Caius in "Merry Wives") shows he is multi-talented: his directing ability in "Macbeth" parallels his acting ability in "Merry Wives." This guy, too, is good.

Although it's tough to describe how funny the actors from Arizona Classical Theatre make "Merry Wives," and how equally tragic they make "Macbeth," both plays are worth seeing. The Elizabethan costumes are the most elaborate part of the visuals, and add to the ambiance of Shakespeare's language, uttered by respectful and deserving actors.

The Arizona Classical Theatre will perform both plays at Granite Creek Park in Prescott. See "Happenings" for show times, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and next weekend as well.

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