Clarks Summit-based Ghostlight Productions will present its fifth annual Shakespeare in the Park production with the light-hearted “The Merry Wives of Windsor,” giving the Bard’s classic comedy a modern-day makeover with a “real housewives” theme.
The performances will be held at South Abington Park Fridays, May 24 and 31 and Saturdays, May 25 and June 1, at 6:30 p.m., as well as Sundays, May 26 and June 2, at 2:30 p.m. The performances are free to the public.
In one of Shakespeare’s most groundbreaking plays, merry mayhem ensues when a large and lusty lothario named Falstaff decides to woo two beautiful but married women, Mrs. Ford and Mrs. Page. Offended by the advances, the wives decide to teach Falstaff a lesson. What follows is a series of mischievous deceptions and misunderstandings, especially when one of the wives is suspected of cheating on her husband.
“It has a lot of the same elements of the soap opera,” said director Jeremy Kemmerer, explaining why he decided to give the production a modern-day spin.
In that vein, the production is set in 21st-century Brooklyn, with the wives and their cohorts frequenting spas and bars.
Despite a somewhat scandalous plot, the story is “merry” and comedic and also offers moral messages like faithfulness and trust, said Rachel Luann Strayer, who plays Mrs. Ford. “It’s really a light-hearted and fun production,” she said.
Kemmerer added, “We wanted to make it accessible to kids and families.”
It was Strayer and her husband Jonathan who founded Ghostlight and who came up with the idea of having the plays in South Abington. “We wanted to do theater in the community, and Shakespeare in the Park was a popular concept around the country. We thought it was a wonderful idea,” she said.
Last year Ghostlight performed the tragedy “Romeo and Juliet,” so this year the group decided to do a comedy. The plays have attracted up to 1,000 spectators, and Strayer hopes they continue to grow.
“I really like how it draws the community together, and especially the kids,” Strayer said. “You have 9- and 10-year-old kids who are just enraptured. I love that.”
Watching Shakespearean plays, as opposed to reading them, gives children – and adults – a better understanding of the language, Strayer said. “Shakespeare is meant to be seen,” she said.
Ghostlight does not charge admission to its productions, but does accept donations. The group operates mainly on grants. It has received two this year, one from Lackawanna County and another from the Pennsylvania Council of the Arts.
“We’ve been very blessed,” Strayer said.