So I’m assisting Sean Daniels on The Merry Wives of Windsor at CalShakes. They’re doing the show with puppets–only the two couples (Masters and Mistresses Ford and Page) as humans.

It’s a wham-bang good time show–pure, straight-to-the-veins comedy. I didn’t think it could be–the play is really one of Shakespeare’s least important–an Elizabethan-era episode of South Park–and how can you get farce and all those outdated references across, without human bodies? Answer: text cuts, Master Puppet Badass John Ludwig‘s astonishingly expressive puppets, and an incredible cast (humans and puppeteers alike).

I’ve watched them do certain bits at least 100 times, and it’s still funny. One bit made me laugh so hard when they staged it, I cried–Sean was thinking of cutting it, because it’s a bit crude, shall we say–and then, in tech, he laughed so hard he fell backwards off the wall he was perched on. It’s staying in.

The cast (Lorna Howley, Max Moore, George “Googie” Uterhardt, Spencer Stephens, Danny Schiele, Ron Campbell as Falstaff, Big-Bird-like, in an eight-foot body-puppet suit, and the humans: Anthony Fusco, Catherine Castellanos, Delia MacDougall, and Liam Vincent) are total pros: talented, trained, consistent, hard-working–they do their homework carefully, are generous with each other on- and offstage. The design looks terrific. CalShakes production and management is a small busy army of hyper-competent folks.

Tech was four full nights in the freezing outdoor cold until 12:30am (then, production meetings)–the great Dave Malloy did the sound design, and as the show is a sort of live cartoon, there are 450 sound cues in the show that had to be teched. It took for fucking ever.

I know the show’s going to be great. So go see it, you’ll enjoy it.

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