Casting has been announced for the Public Theater’s free Shakespeare in the Park production of Merry Wives, an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Merry Wives of Windsor penned by Jocelyn Bioh.
Directed by Associate Artistic Director and Resident Director Saheem Ali, performances will now begin July 6 (instead of the previously announced July 5) and will run an additional three weeks through September 18 with an official opening July 27. The Public will close out the summer with its annual gala September 20, featuring a performance of Merry Wives.
The cast will feature Abena as Anne Page, Shola Adewusi as Mama Quickly, Gbenga Akinnagbe as Mister Nduka Ford, Pascale Armand as Madam Ekua Page, MaYaa Boateng as Fenton/Simple, Phillip James Brannon as Pastor Evans, Joshua Echebiri as Slender/Pistol, Jacob Ming-Trent as Falstaff, Julian Rozzell Jr. as Shallow, Kyle Scatliffe as Mister Kwame Page, David Ryan Smith as Doctor Caius, and Susan Kelechi Watson as Madam Nkechi Ford with ensemble members Brandon E. Burton, Branden Lindsay, Ebony Marshall-Oliver, Jarvis D. Matthews, and Jennifer Mogbock.
Set in South Harlem amid a vibrant and eclectic community of West African immigrants, Merry Wives tells the story of the trickster Falstaff and the wily wives who outwit him in a new celebration of Black joy, laughter, and vitality.
The outdoor production will also feature scenic design by Beowulf Boritt, costume design by Dede Ayite, lighting design by Jiyoun Chang, co-sound design by Kai Harada and Palmer Hefferan, original music by Michael Thurber, fight direction by Rocío Mendez, choreography by Darrell Grand Moultrie, hair, wigs, and make-up design by Cookie Jordan, and sound system design by Jessica Paz. Narda E. Alcorn will serve as production stage manager.
“The New York theatre is opening again at long last, and it belongs to everyone. Free Shakespeare in the Park is the most democratic of civic spaces, and for The Delacorte to launch the re-opening of New York’s theatre is a beautiful reminder of all the hopes we have for our city’s future,” says Artistic Director Oskar Eustis. “Merry Wives of Windsor is Shakespeare’s most purely light-hearted play; its comic targets are men’s vanity, jealousy, and self-absorption, its heroines are women of wit, strength, and power. Our production is set in contemporary South Harlem among the African diasporic community in New York, and that’s not an accident. We are returning with a celebration of our immigrant communities of color and our certainty that Shakespeare can belong to all people, no matter who you are. We are back. New York is back. Come to Central Park to celebrate!”
In accordance with the New York State guidelines for outdoor gatherings, the theatre’s capacity will be limited to 428 seats. All patrons over the age of two must wear an approved face mask and present a negative PCR COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of the performance time; a negative rapid antigen test taken within 6 hours; or proof of full vaccination completed at least 14 days prior to performance date, along with a brief health questionnaire to be completed before arriving at the theatre. Contactless temperature checks will be administered upon arrival, and all patrons and staff must maintain physical distancing of six feet from others. For more information about safety protocols, click here.
Free tickets will be distributed, two per person, via an advanced digital lottery hosted by Goldstar through its app and website.