“The Merry Wives of Windsor,” Shakespeare’s play about two smart, funny women, boasts what is possibly (oh, the speculation) one of the only original plots the Bard ever came up with. His titular heroines, Mistress Ford and Mistress Page, conspire to outsmart the conniving Falstaff as he drives to seduce and swindle them. We caught up with Veanne Cox, who plays Mistress Page in the Shakespeare Theatre’s new production.

This is set right after World War I, when the British class system was really changing. How does class affect relationships in the play?

“Merry Wives” has the distinction of being the singular play that Shakespeare wrote about his contemporaries, about middle-class Elizabethan times. One of the struggles in this play for me has been not being a queen or a pauper. It’s harder to be normal; the distinctions are more subtle.

“Merry Wives” is one of the only Shakespeare plays that has a really strong, central friendship between two women who aren’t sisters.

Yes! It’s a singular joy to see the collaboration between two smart, funny, out-for-fun women. It’s shocking that Shakespeare comes around to giving us that; it’s so rare.

It’s a really uncommonly nuanced relationship for such a broad comedy.

I’d call it subtle, but the lengths that they go to to enjoy themselves aren’t exactly subtle. I have a leading lady! I thoroughly enjoy having a leading man, always, but this is a different experience.

Shakespeare Theatre’s Sidney Harman Hall, 610 F St. NW; through July 15, $20-$100; 202-547-1122. (Gallery Place)