Falstaff - Review by The Mercury News
Rotund Sir John also is at the center of Actors Ensemble of Berkeley’s new show “Falstaff!” at John Hinkel Park, the former home of California Shakespeare Theater (way back when it was the Berkeley Shakespeare Festival). Adapted and directed by Robert Estes, the play is a greatly abbreviated distillation of the “Henry IV” plays, lingering lovingly on Falstaff’s scenes and fast-forwarding through the parts that don’t involve him (“Merry Wives” is not included).
Falstaff’s entertaining antics remain the high points of the show, the half-dozen women offering slight variations on the rogue’s boastful posturing, while Sir John’s companions delight in catching him in a lie. (Jerome Solberg’s set is a blue wall painted with the various florid insults they heap on Falstaff.) The ending is surprisingly touching, making good use of the multiple Falstaffs’ reactions as his royal protege finally outgrows his influence. In this difficult moment, it’s good that he has each other.