Is this really free?

For the second year running, the Ridgeville Park District sponsored Shakespeare in the Park, presenting a full performance of a Shakepeare comedy on the lawn behind the Ridgeville Park building near Ridge Avenue and South Boulevard. Last year, the Arc Theater Company's performance of a Midsummer Night's Dream showed a comic eye and solid acting. This year's performance of one of the less frequently performed Shakespeare comedies, “The Merry Wives of Windsor,” was even better, as Arc has become only more confident, more competent and more assured.

Arc's Artistic Director Mark Boergers, who directed the performance, focused on the true comic elements of the play – the hapless, ridiculous male characters. Jealous, money-grubbing, proud, silly, and, of course, sex-starved, the male characters delighted with their flaws while being led to their comic demise by a series of clever and resourceful women. The supposed center of the play, Sir John Falstaff, took a back seat in the Arc performance to allow others to shine.

Particularly hilarious was Teddy Boone (last year's equally funny Bottom) as Doctor Caius, whose affected French accent alone made the show worth seeing. David Daniels as Slender was not far behind with physical humor and facial expressions that show real comic talent. And then there were the wives themselves, Bridget Haight as Mistress Page and Megan Kohl and Mistress Ford. Each showed a distinct personality while swatting away the advances of Falstaff in embarrassing and uproarious ways.

Falstaff as a character has always been somewhat difficult to swallow in this play. The brilliant and hilarious wordsmith of Shakespeare's Henry IV and V plays returned as a simply buffoon in this play, making the character appear alternatingly clever and ridiculous. Brian Bush handled the part well, but in the end Falstaff was upstaged by the rest of the characters.

“The Merry Wives of Windsor” closed its Evanston run on July 31.