Jocelyn Bioh’s Merry Wives, the playwright's adaptation of Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor, debuts on PBS stations around the country May 20 at 9 PM ET; check local listings.
Recorded in summer 2021 at The Public Theater’s Free Shakespeare in the Park, the comedy is also available at PBS.org and the PBS Video app.
The broadcast is part of Great Performances' fifth annual Broadway’s Best lineup, which launched May 13 with the Sutton Foster-led London revival of Anything Goes and concludes May 27 with Keeping Company With Sondheim, a documentary spotlighting the current, Tony-nominated revival of Company, featuring new interviews with Tony winners Katrina Lenk and Patti LuPone and the late Stephen Sondheim.
Directed by The Public Associate Artistic Director and Resident Director Saheem Ali, Merry Wives is set in South Harlem where immigrants of the West African diaspora are living side-by-side with their African American neighbors. The farce tells the story of the charlatan Falstaff and the wily wives who outwit him in a celebration of Black joy, laughter, and vitality.
The cast is headed by Jacob Ming-Trent as Falstaff, Pascale Armand as Madam Ekua Page, and Susan Kelechi Watson as Madam Nkechi Ford.
The opening cast at the Public also featured Abena as Anne Page, Shola Adewusi as Mama Quickly (Angela Grovey later took over the role of Mama Quickly), Gbenga Akinnagbe as Mister Nduka Ford, MaYaa Boateng as Fenton/Simple, Phillip James Brannon as Pastor Evans, Joshua Echebiri as Slender/Pistol, Julian Rozzell Jr. as Shallow, Kyle Scatliffe as Mister Kwame Page, and David Ryan Smith as Doctor Caius with ensemble members Brandon E. Burton, Branden Lindsay, Ebony Marshall-Oliver, Jarvis D. Matthews, and Jennifer Mogbock.
The outdoor production also had 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 served as production stage manager.