Merry Wives

By William Shakespeare

Adapted by Jocelyn Bioh

Directed by Saheem Ali

Costumes by Dede Ayite, Lighting by Jiyoun Chang, Sound by Kai Harada, Palmer Hefferan

Black Lives Matter Harlem Street Mural Courtesy of Harlem Park To Park, Executive Produced by Harlem Park to Park, Valinc PR, and Got To Stop; Curated by LeRone Wilson; Mural Art by LeRone Wilson, Guy Stanley Philoche, Dianne Smith, Omo Misha, Thomas Heath, Lesny JN Felix, Joyous Pierce, and Jason Wallace

Delacorte Theatre, Shakespeare in the Park

2021


Kyle Scatliffe, Gbenga Akinnagbe, and Julian Rozzell, Jr.

Jacob Ming Trent and Gbenga Akinnagbe

Joshua Echebiri

Pascale Armand and Susan Kelechi Watson

Joshua Echebiri, MaYaa Boateng, Julian Rozzell, Jr., and Phillip James Brannon

Pascale Armand, Abena, and Joshua Echebiri

Jacob Ming Trent

Shola Adewusi

Ma Yaa Boateng and Joshua Echebiri

Article about the set in Architectural Digest

Article including the set in Town and Country

“That the letters are discovered while Madam Page is having her hair done at a Senegalese braiding salon on 116th Street tells you a lot about the production’s good humor. The salon is part of Beowulf Boritt’s elaborate transforming puzzle of a set, which also includes an urgent care clinic run by Dr. Caius (David Ryan Smith) and Mama Quickly (Shola Adewusi), and a laundromat, wittily called the Windsor, where the women’s revenge on Falstaff is eventually carried out amid baskets of “foul linen.” Forgiveness, instead of revenge, is the evening’s unexpected theme. And not just for the characters. Near the end, in a coup-de-outdoor-theater, Boritt’s set slides away and offers us all a magical view of Central Park, lit as if it were a heavenly playground by Jiyoun Chang. Can we hope that this marks the beginning of a happier moment in our city and country?” ~Jesse Green, The New York Times

“Beowulf Boritt’s clever set is a forced-perspective street corner: Citi Bike look-alikes are parked stage right, and the rest consists of brick buildings containing a clinic, a laundromat with an apartment above, and a hair-braiding salon. As in many a Park production, the show shifts into a kind of van Gogh rapture as the twilight fades into deep night, and the designers (Boritt and lighting designer Jiyoun Chang) focus our attention on the trees towering behind the stage. When a wall of Boritt’s street spins around to reveal a tiny apartment, we see it has pink-and-black zebra wallpaper and the accoutrements of a man who escapes into fantasy a lot — a television, a VR headset, a lightsaber. Over the bed is a blown-up print of what might have been an album cover 25 years ago: four Falstaffs, each in a Notorious B.I.G. style crown, the ’90s vibes rolling off it like smoke. FALSTAFF the poster says in a typewriter font, and DISCRETION/VALOR. On the one hand, the designers render a fantastically detailed idea of who this guy is. There’s a little traveling wave of laughter as people spot the Nietzsche on his bedside table or register his Poetic Justice T-shirt. This is a room to get baked in, to rest on old laurels in — as long as those laurels get you buzzed.” ~Helen Shaw, New York Magazine

“Delight lies in its scenic design, by Beowulf Boritt, which charms by bringing the sidewalks, braiding salons, and laundromats of Harlem into Central Park... A single, spectacular moment near the play’s end makes up for the anxiety of admission—even outdoors, rubbing shoulders with strangers keeps Delta on the mind—when the cast gathers, in rustling grass skirts and ceremonial masks, for Falstaff’s comeuppance. The set slides away, and we are again in the Park, transformed by music, light, dance, and song into a world that is African, American, Shakespearean, and, for a few minutes, pure magic.” ~Alexandra Schwartz , The New Yorker

Framed by set designer Beowulf Boritt’s realistic storefronts of a laundromat, health clinic and Senegalese hair-braiding salon… This vainest of Falstaffs is a genuine slob whom Boritt houses in a shabby bachelor pad wallpapered in purple zebra stripes.” ~Peter Marks, The Washington Post

“All play on Beowulf Boritt’s lovely Harlem streetside set of three storefronts, each swiveling to double-serve as exteriors and interiors, conveying the sense of an entire community in microcosm. When the streetscape gives way to a late-play park scene, the set opens up to make grand use of the Delacorte’s own natural environment.” ~Greg Evans, Deadline

“As crafted by set designer Beowulf Boritt, this corner of Harlem centers around a family-run pharmacy, a family-run laundromat and a family-run hair salon, all neighbors on the same block.” ~A.D. Amorosi, Variety

“There’s an added appeal in Beowulf Boritt’s stunning jewel-box of a set, which transforms itself into multiple settings — and then disappears in the final scenes to reveal Central Park in all its romantic glory.” ~Tom Geier, The Wrap

“And set designer Beowulf Boritt deserves special commendation for the gloriously over-the-top decoration of Falstaff’s pad: animal print bedding, a hot pink shag, and—the pièce de résistance—a four-panel portrait of Falstaff modeled after rapper Biggie Smalls’ iconic “King of New York” photo.” ~Melissa Rose Bernardo, New York Stage Review

“More than any other Shakespeare in the Park production I've seen, this piece celebrated the fact that it was in the park. I won't reveal how it is achieved, but Beowulf Borrit's set and Jiyoun Chang's lighting create a stunning coup de theatre that embraces Central Park as a theatrical space in a way I will never forget.” ~Christian Lewis, Broadway World

“As Merry Wives wends to its close, Beowulf Boritt’s intricate street set folds in on itself, the brick storefronts of a Harlem block stowing themselves away in the wings like cards put back in a deck. The clear green space of Central Park emerges from behind the set, and in the distance the skyscrapers of Manhattan glitter. It’s an invitation: We can take the joy and the love of Merry Wives out of the theater, out into the park, the city, the rest of the world.” ~Constance Grady, Vox

“Set designer Beowulf Boritt submerges you into the historic neighborhood with beautifully crafted laundromat featuring working washers, a Senegalese hair braiding salon with photos of Black women in twists and cornrows cut-and-pasted together to cover the doors of the storefront, and an urgent care facility with the words "Black Lives Matters" etched on the side of the building. The audience is immediately made to feel like a part of this neighborhood. Aside from what immediately catches the eye, it's the smalls details, which urge you to look a little closer, in Borrit's design that make it even more poignant.” ~Ayanna Prescod, Theatermania

“The vividly evoked New York City neighborhood provides a fine setting for this comedy of multiple romantic intrigues. The title characters hatch their plots in a hair-braiding salon that also serves as a local hangout. The learned Dr. Caius -- one of several men vying for the hand of ingenue Anne Page -- operates out of a community health center. And, for the Madams Ford and Page to get Falstaff loaded into that infamous basket of soiled clothing, a laundromat occupies center stage on Beowulf Boritt's set. Indeed, the entire production design strongly conveys Merry Wives' contemporary conceit. Boritt has come up with a photorealistic streetscape that spins and pops open to reveal many wittily detailed interiors -- most notably Falstaff's bachelor pad, an aesthetic horror dominated by pink zebra-striped walls; a giant, four-part self-portrait; and garish neon art.” ~David Barbour, Lighting & Sound America

“And then there is Beowulf Boritt’s inspired set, meant to be a block on 116th Street (which opens up to show the interiors), featuring a Family Health of Harlem urgent care storefront plastered with a Black Lives Matter mural, a Senegalese braiding salon, Falstaff’s obscenely red-hued bachelor’s pad, and a laundromat where an outwitted Falstaff is sent to the cleaners and much of the comic business unfolds. It’s no spoiler to tell you that, at the happy conclusion of “Merry Wives,” when all have met and married their matches, the street disappears, and, yes, we are all under the stars in Central Park, together again.” ~ Jonathan Mandell, New York Theatre