The Taming of the Shrew
In the battle of the sexes, some things never change, even if our social mores do. As a result, modern directors are challenged by The Taming of the Shrew, where on the surface it looks like Petruchio, who deprives Kate of sleep and food, has the upper hand and male chauvinism has carried the day.
But the pantheon of strong women in the Shakespearean canon forces us to look for a theatrical solution more aligned with the playwright's sensitivities. And that clever alchemy is what we call farce.
In the final scene of director Stephanie Shine's entertaining production— when Kate (Karyn Casl) maroons Petruchio (Augustus Truhn) on a tall table before choosing to help him down and when Petruchio goes down on bended knee to praise Kate—a key element in the success of this farce is revealed, with the staging and the text in stark contrast to each other.
|Augustus Truhn as Petruchio|
and Karyn Casl as Kate
Photo: Casey A. Cass for CU Communications
Casl and Truhn have great chemistry, too, which lays bare the underlying motivation for Kate and Petruchio to work things out, as we see in Kate's reaction to Petruchio's handsome first impression, their first kiss, and her demeanor after the marriage has been consummated. The couple's tongue-in-cheek sense of melodrama and exaggeration charmingly mocks Elizabethan social pretentions.
There's a good dose of slapstick, as well, led by the hilariously zany Grumio (Geoffrey Kent), a servant to Petruchio. Kent outdoes himself with clownish abandon and gleeful sarcasm; his smart repartee with the audience is a delight.
But Shine seems to be content with the other players performing mostly in a comedic, not farcical, fashion-less outlandish and uptempo than the leads-missing opportunities to undermine the chauvinistic overtones of the text.
Nevertheless, these characterizations are often amusing in their own way, particularly Josh Robinson's scheming Hortensio, Philip Sneed's affected Gremio, Biko Eisen-Martin's clever Biondello, and Karen Slack's sassy Widow.
Kevin Dunayer's sound design adds thoughtful contemporary commentary to the action. Anne Murphy's colorful, finely detailed costumes are a feast for the eyes.
In all, the production succeeds where most fail, with the playing field for Kate and Petruchio leveled in a way that leads us to consider the nature of their relationship and why, in the end, this feisty couple trumps the more conventional Lucentio/Bianca and Hortencio/Widow pairings.
The Colorado Shakespeare Festival's production of The Taming of the Shrew runs through August 6th, in repertory with King Lear, Measure for Measure, The Fantastiks, and Our Town. 303-492-0554 or www.coloradoshakes.org.