Monday night’s “Merry Wives of Windsor” reading at UCLA was one-third Shakespeare, one-third country standards sung by Reba McEntire, and one-third ad libs by Tom Hanks and Martin Short.
And just about everybody on stage at Royce Hall wore a cowboy hat, except Kenneth Branagh’s Master Ford, who seemed to have wandered in from another production, if not another continent.
No one gave the word “adieu” more twang than McEntire’s Margaret, prompting Hanks’ Master Page to remark, “It’s like she’s affected half the cast with her dialect.”
The show did stick to the Bard when it came to William Shatner’s Falstaff, who delivered the grand finale in drag, looking like “the witch of Brentwood,” as Rita Wilson’s Mistress Ford put it.
The Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles has turned these Simply Shakespeare readings into an annual event on the Westside, thanks to the Hankses.
SCLA director Ben Donenberg called Wilson “a loyal, steadfast, faithful board member,” and has been ever since she appeared in a 1989 production of “As You Like It” with the company.