PORT TOWNSEND — When you find out big John Falstaff is trying to simultaneously hustle you and your good friend, you could be horrified. You two are married ladies, for crying out loud.
The women do take offense at first. Then they realize whom they’re dealing with.
“You know what? This is hilarious,” is the reaction from Krista Curry, one of the title characters in “The Merry Wives of Windsor,” the thoroughly modern comedy opening tonight at Chetzemoka Park, 900 Jackson St.
Key City Public Theatre’s summer Shakespeare production packs in the classic themes: greed, trickery, competition, romance. This particular show, adapted to the present day, also has smartphones, soda pop and a large recycling receptacle.
“Merry Wives” tumbles across the park stage at 6 p.m. each Friday, Saturday and Sunday through Aug. 25. It’s an immersive show, director Denise Winter promised, with the set decorated for an outdoor party, complete with children from Key City’s Shakespeare summer camp frolicking around.
Food and drink will be for sale at 5 p.m. and seating will begin at 5:30.
Admission is pay-what-you-wish at the gate with cash or check.
In the play, the wives grow merry while outwitting Falstaff — but that’s not the only story line.
“There are three plots,” said Curry, a New York City-based actor.
She and Crystal Eisele of Port Townsend play Mistress Ford and Mistress Page, respectively. The pair get into a comic game of seduction with Falstaff, played by a lilac Hawaiian shirt-wearing Brendan Chambers.
Plot No. 2 is about lovely Anne Page — played by Selena Tibert, another guest artist from New York — and her trio of suitors.
The third plot involves “something about bicycles,” Curry quipped.
When she contacted Winter to find out more about the “Merry Wives,” the director told her to think of them as ladies of leisure, wearing $100 Lululemon leggings.
“For my audition tape, I dragged out my workout gear,” along with a refreshing adult beverage.
“I am familiar,” Curry said, “with drinking wine in my yoga pants.”
Above all, “The Merry Wives of Windsor” is escapist fun, she added. It’s a counterpoint to last year’s Key City production of “Hamlet,” and that is just fine by her.
The names of the “Merry” characters are lighthearted too. Orion Pendley, the Emcee in Port Townsend High School’s “Cabaret” this spring, is a goofy swain named Slender.
D.D. Wigley plays Rugby, the one who chases the children around the set; Bry Kifolo plays Pistol, one of Falstaff’s followers, and Genevieve Barlow plays Mistress Quickly.
In this story, the women win out, Curry said. Therein lies another thing she relishes. Mistresses Ford and Page work together well as soon as they see what Falstaff is up to.
“It’s fun to have a character whose primary relationship is with another woman,” said Curry, whose roles around the United States have included Lina in “Singin’ in the Rain” and Lady de Winter in “The Three Musketeers.”
“Exploring that friendship is not something I usually get to do,” she said.
The “Merry” cast also features Ciel Pope as Shallow, Maggie Jo Bulkley as Fanta, Tom Challinor as Caius the French doctor and Sam Cavallaro as Host of the Garter.
Barlow, the Key City Public Theatre artistic apprentice who directed “Men on Boats” in April, revels in this Shakespearean experience.
Her Mistress Quickly “knows everyone in town, and is in a place to do everyone a favor,” she said, so she helps not only the guys wooing Anne Page but also the ladies playing tricks on Falstaff.
“She gets to con all the different people, and has fun the entire time,” Barlow said, adding that Mistress Quickly makes sure she’s well-compensated for it all.
For her, “Merry Wives” — especially this version — is as rewarding an escapade for the Chetzemoka Park audience.
“As people leave the park,” she said, “I would love for them to be astonished that an hour and a half of Shakespeare could pass so quickly and with so much joy.”
For patrons wanting a lift to the stage area, a golf cart awaits inside the park entrance at Blaine and Jackson streets. Blankets, lawn chairs, picnics and warm clothes are encouraged.
Information and advance tickets, see keycitypublictheatre.org or call 360-385-5278.