The Weird and Wonderful Re-Acclaim of Shakespeare on Broadway and in Brooklyn

I think Something Rotten! is the funniest musical written in the past five centuries, worthy of every titter, chortle, guffaw and cheer it elicits. In addition to supplying non-stop yocks for anyone who loves LOL, Something Rotten! has solved a centuries-old literary mystery. Could a baseborn hick from a boondock like Stratford-on-Avon have created 34 plays that 515 years later are still being performed, praised, even streamed, via outlets that God never suspected would be profitable before He created Jobs - the individual not the activity -- and re-established the Garden of Eden in a boondock called Cupertino!

According to Something Rotten! Shakespeare's partners in rhyme and iambic pentameter were not the Earls of Oxford or Derby, or Sir Francis Bacon, but the half-genius/half-idiot, even more baseborn, Nigel Bottom, the self-deprecating, younger and more talented half of the Bottom brothers, the Bard's principal rivals. Nick, the elder Bottom, so lusted after fame and celebrity that he gave a so-so soothsayer -- Tom, the lesser Nostradamus, his life's savings for answers to two questions. What would sell the most theater tickets in the future and the name of Shakespeare's greatest play. Tom correctly predicted that scalpers would be rolling in dough thanks to musicals, but the title of Will's greatest play ... Oh! Oh! Oh!... was on the tip of his tongue...Omelet...Something Danish...With a side dish of pork.

In the interim, Shakespeare glanced at Nigel's scribblings and read, To be or not to be; What a piece of work is man; Oh, that this too, too solid flesh would melt, declared them packed with clichés which he agreed to try to salvage, but out of concern for Nigel's future literary reputation, the Bard warned, "I don't want to see this with your name on it!"

Shakespeare was as good as his word. No one never did.

The out-of-town tryout of Omelette, The Musical, was such a fiasco that the Bottoms decided to seek their fortunes on the other side of the pond. As they board their ship, the soothsayer learns the title of Shakespeare's latest and greatest play, Hamlet, which causes him to sigh, "I was so close!"

In Brooklyn at Theater 2020, a bold, creative and adventurous artistic company (with as much imagination and far less funding) is presenting a Shakespearean comedy written during the same years as Hamlet. The Merry Wives of Windsor retitled The Real Merry Housewives of Windsor, CT by company co-artistic director, David Fuller, was condensed to two acts and mercifully denuded of jokes that haven't made anyone smile since '05. That's 1605. Fortunately, a fat fool dumped into a muddy river in a tub of smelly laundry, a jealous husband, an ambitious foreigner, revenge-bent wives and a head yenta still always get laughs.

The Real Merry Housewives is a sitcomish saga of vanity and folly, two personality defects, which are -- alas for life, hurrah for comedy -- always found in the same body. In this case, it's the plumpish body of Sir John Falstaff, played perfectly by David Fuller in cargo shorts, a Hawaiian shirt and a down pillow discretely tied around his middle. Fuller is hardly a Sir Johnny come lately. He's been involved as producer, director, actor or fight director in 34 Shakespearean productions and speaks Shakespeare's lines in clear American easy-to-understand English as did another male player, Mark Rimer, the jealous husband. Despite his French accent, Dennis Vargas as an anxious suitor used body language to make his intentions clear. Equally commendable were Elyse Beyer and Klahr Thorson as their wives and Eileen Glenn as the head yenta. The PC women given minor male roles were hard to understand because the glorious acoustics in the St. Charles Borromeo Church accented the shrillness of their voices.

I saw Merry Housewives with a mixed bag of companions, folks between the ages of 9 and 86. The slapstick appealed equally to all. And talk about PC, a happily ever after lesbian wedding finale made it totally 2015.

The Real Merry Housewives are moving outdoors and will be performed (90 minutes with no intermission, weather permitting) Friday, Saturday and Sunday June 12, 13, 13 at 7 pm at Shakespeare at Sunset, a free event, open to the public, with outdoor waterside seating at the granite prospect at Pier One in the Brooklyn Bridge Park.