The Merry Wives of Windsor Towers
Municipal Parking Lot at Ludlow & Broome St., Manhattan
Thursdays-Saturdays at 8pm
Look around at the SPURA controversy and you will see the same characters and class clashes as Shakespeare portrayed in “The Merry Wives of Windsor.” That’s the idea behind “The Merry Wives of Windsor Towers,” the first production of The Drilling Company’s Shakespeare in the Park(ing) Lot series, to be presented July 12 to 28 in the Municipal Parking Lot at the corner of Ludlow and Broome Streets. Hamilton Clancy directs.
This adaptation is set in an imaginary Windsor Towers, a condo which has just gone up on the Lower East Side. (Although it’s a fabrication, you can interview Lower East Siders about it and eight out of ten will tell you they know where it is.) Masters Ford and Page are two businessmen urging the passage of SPURA through the City Council (and standing to profit from it). Their eponymous wives are both active in the community. The comic hero, John Falstaff, is a classic Lower East real estate man always looking for the next big score. In this case, the real estate he’s angling for are the estates of Ford and Page.
The production is partly an homage to the last time “Merry Wives of Windsor” was presented in the Parking Lot in 2001, Then, it was set on the Upper East Side. In the last ten years the Upper East side has moved downtown and now the Lower East Side is filled with many of the same characters and class clashes that happen on a regular basis in Shakespeare’s original “Merry Wives.”
SPURA is the acronym for the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area, which covers five vacant plots of land owned by New York City on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, acquired as part of a 1965 urban renewal plan, near Delancey and Grand Streets. These sites, all in view of the Williamsburg Bridge, were originally part of a federal program to tear down several tenements and develop low-income housing. Some of the original SPURA property was developed, but five remain vacant to this day, the product of long disagreement over what “appropriate redevelopment” should be: permanently affordable housing, mixed use or large commercial retail. Last month, Community Board 3 broke a half-century long stalemate, approving a mixed-use development with numerous stipulations, including a 60 year guarantee to tenants in “permanently affordable housing,” a ban on big box stores, a new public school, a commitment that businesses in the project pay their workers a “living wage” and a guarantee that local residents would would be hired for construction and permanent jobs.