Two of the Bard's rarely produced plays, “The Merry Wives of Windsor” and “The Winter's Tale,” come to Hermosa Beach this weekend for Shakespeare by the Sea's 21st season.

Shakespeare by the Sea brings its free shows to 17 locations this year including Hermosa Beach's Valley Park on Thursday, July 12, Wilson Park in Torrance on July 28, Terranea Resort in Rancho Palos Verdes on July 29, and Polliwog Park in Manhattan Beach on August 11. “Shakespeare” closes on Aug. 18 at Point Fermin Park in San Pedro.

“The Merry Wives of Windsor,” directed by Cylan Brown, has Sir John Falstaff chasing after two rich women to ease his financial hardships. Brown said that the play, written later in Shakespeare’s career, has been hit hard by many critics over the centuries because the Falstaff character is “not witty and the jokes are not that great.” But he said that changes when it's on stage.

“It's a real crowd pleaser,” Brown said. “It's a really funny silly romp. You have these really big broad ridiculous characters.”

Brown, who also has an acting role in “The Winter's Tale,” had never seen or worked on a production of “Merry Wives” before tackling this show. He said the challenge is bringing “clarity” to the play.

“It took time to figure out how all the pieces fit together and how to make the story really clear... the play is so lively, it's so full of energy, it propels itself forward.”

“Like Merry Wives,” “The Winter's Tale” is another play from Shakespeare's late career, and another that is rarely seen because its “problematic” since it shifts from heavy drama to comedy, according to director and associate festival producer Stephanie Coltrin.

“But that's actually what I love about it... instead of everything ending up in death and destruction, he decided to explore grace and redemption... the end of the play is a complete surprise to everybody,” Coltrin said.

Because of time constraints, Coltrin spent 90 hours to cut “The Winter's Tale” for the festival.

“The challenge is to give both the tragedy of it and the comedy of it there due respect so it doesn't become too weighted on either side,” she said. “That's especially challenging in the cutting of it since we have our time limit.”

For more information, visit shakespearebythesea.org.

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