Add WICA’s “Falstaff in Love” to your holiday wish list

— Created December 6, 2023 by Kathy Reed

Photo Courtesy of Whidbey Island Center for the Arts
The cast of “Falstaff in Love” will have audiences in stitches during performances of this Scott Kaiser play, written in the style of William Shakespeare. The play opens Friday at Whidbey Island Center for the Arts in Langley. Pictured from left are Shelley Hartle, Sommer Harris, Rosaletta Curry, Jameson Cook, Tom Harris, David Mayer and Andrew Yabroff.

By Kathy Reed

Whidbey Island Center for the Arts in Langley has something special to offer for the holiday season – a production of what promises to be a “new” classic in the genre of William Shakespeare.

“Falstaff in Love,” a play by Scott Kaiser, opens on WICA’s main stage Friday and will run through Saturday, Dec. 23. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, with additional evening shows Thursday, Dec. 14 and Wednesday, Dec. 20. There will also be two matinee performances at 2 p.m. Sunday Dec. 10 and 17. Tickets may be purchased online at

WICA Artistic Executive Director, Deana Duncan, directs the production.

Photo Courtesy of Whidbey Island Center for the Arts
Sir John Falstaff, one of William Shakespeare’s most popular characters, has inspired a new work by playwright Scott Kaiser, entitled “Falstaff in Love.” The play, which explores what shaped the knight Shakespeare wrote about, opens Friday at Whidbey Island Center for the Arts in Langley and will run through Dec. 23. Pictured above are Andrew Yabroff and Rosaletta Curry.

“’Falstaff in Love’ is a new American play and WICA is thrilled to showcase it in hopes other theaters may pick it up,” she told Whidbey Weekly via email. “The play takes place over the course of a year and opens at Christmas time 1399, just before the Epiphany Rising, a failed rebellion against King Henry IV of England. It was this mention of Christmas time that gave me the idea.

“I wanted something really fun and unexpected for the holidays,” Duncan continued. “’Falstaff in Love’ is a comic romp with nods to Shakespeare’s bawdy humor and deep knowledge of humanity. I asked Scott Kaiser if I could ‘holiday’ it up a bit and he said yes! This is a fresh pseudo-Shakespearean comedy, (probably) not fit for all ages, and a fun way to ring in the holiday season.”

For those unaware, Sir John Falstaff is a character whom William Shakespeare included in three of his plays. In fact, Queen Elizabeth I was so taken by the Falstaff character in “Henry IV,” parts one and two, in which Falstaff served as a companion to Prince Henry (who would become Henry V), that she asked Shakespeare to write a play about Falstaff being in love. It is said Shakespeare obliged by writing “The Merry Wives of Windsor” in 14 days.

“Assuming that these belated reports are accurate, it should be clear to anyone who has read or seen ‘Merry Wives’ that Shakespeare slyly sidestepped the Queen’s request, for in that play, Falstaff is most certainly not in love,” wrote playwright Kaiser in the introduction to “Falstaff in Love,” which he shared in an email to Whidbey Weekly. “While it’s true that much of the comedy of ‘Merry Wives’ revolves around couples in love, Falstaff is not one of them—unless you count an abiding passion for money and sack.”

Kaiser, on the artistic staff at Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF) in Ashland for 28 years, is familiar with all of Shakespeare’s works. He said he felt Shakespeare had not fulfilled the Queen’s request. He wanted to create a work that actually showed Falstaff in love and tell Falstaff’s “origin” story as Shakespeare might have done.

Photo Courtesy of Whidbey Island Center for the Arts
The character Sir John Falstaff was featured in three plays by William Shakespeare. But what was Falstaff like before he was introduced to the world? That is the premise of the Scott Kaiser play, “Falstaff in Love,” opening Friday at Whidbey Island Center for the Arts in Langley. Pictured from left are cast members Jeff Natter, Jameson Cook, Andrew Yabroff and Rosaletta Curry.

‘Falstaff in Love’ is written as an alternative prequel to the ‘Henry IV’ plays—with the usurpation of King Richard II by Henry Bolingbroke running continuously in the background,” wrote Kaiser. “And while I’ve made every effort to adhere to the plot laid out in Shakespeare’s ‘Richard II,’ I’ve also taken liberties where needed—both with historical timelines and with characters.”

Andrew Yabroff, from Santa Cruz, Calif., plays Sir John Falstaff. He has spent five summers on Whidbey Island working at the Island Shakespeare Festival and he told Whidbey Weekly he has made Shakespeare the “cornerstone” of his career.

“When the opportunity to work on this play came my way I jumped at the chance,” he said. “Falstaff has been one of my all-time favorite Shakespeare characters. He is the anti-hero, yet lovable knight who makes sure the young prince has enough fun in his life. [He’s ] funny, irreverent and lovable.

“When I heard that a great author and mentor of mine from OSF, Scott Kaiser, wrote him an origin story, I knew it was gonna be good,” Yabroff continued. “I have loved discovering what the young man was like before we meet him in ‘Henry IV.’ Was he always this way? What events in his life helped him become the knight we know? As an actor it is a goldmine of possibility, a great script, and your imagination can run wild.”

The cast for “Falstaff in Love” is relatively small – 10 actors portray 12 characters. Cast members come from California, Port Townsend, Canada and Whidbey Island.

Photo Courtesy of Whidbey Island Center for the Arts
Shelley Hartle plays Lady Katherine in “Falstaff in Love,” a new play by Scott Kaiser, about the popular Shakespeare character, Sir John Falstaff. The show runs through Dec. 23 at Whidbey Island Center for the Arts in Langley.

“We have a cast which has experience in performing Shakespeare and who have embraced Scott’s hilarious play with enormous enthusiasm,” shared Shelley Hartle, who plays Lady Katherine. “It’s been so much fun! Watching what the director, actors, production crew, light technician, and music director have all created to bring this delightful story to our local audiences [has been the most rewarding part of this production]. It’s been such a treat to be involved!”

“I haven’t had this much fun in a very long time,” Duncan said. “To be in the rehearsal hall with these amazing actors and working with a strong design team, I’m reminded how important live theater is. This art form is rare in that it’s not perfect—perfectly imperfect actually. Theater allows space for our humanness and then shares that with an audience, creating a once-in-a-lifetime ‘moment’ every night.”

WICA was recently named the top theater in the Northern Seattle Region by Theatre Puget Sound Gregory Awards. Duncan said “Falstaff in Love” will be seen by the nominating committee in Seattle for consideration for Best Play and other awards. All the more reason to add “Falstaff in Love” to your holiday wish list.

“Oh, you don’t want to miss this,” she encouraged. “We’ve never produced anything like ‘Falstaff in Love.’ It’s not a Shakespeare play, but because Scott Kaiser is such a genius, the play feels like one of Shakespeare’s strongest comedies. There are all the normal plot twists: mistaken identities, multiple plot lines cleverly intertwined to keep the audience guessing, bawdy/naughty wordplay, stock characters like the young couple, the fool, the clever servant, the drunk…they are all here. Add in some strong fight choreography, two songs with live music and some audience interaction—oh, and don’t forget the Butter Brew we’re serving in the Boarshead Inn Bar preshow—this is a GREAT date night, holiday event!”