Review: “The Taming of the Shrew” is amazing!

Posted August 11, 2013 at 12:04 pm by

"The Taming of the Shrew" plays tonight & finishes its run next weekend.

"The Taming of the Shrew" plays tonight & finishes its run next weekend.

It’s always fun to see peo­ple smil­ing at the end of a show as they’re walk­ing out, and there was a lot to smile about with this sum­mer’s pro­duc­tion of Shake­speare’s “The Tam­ing of the Shrew” by Island Stage Left.

The sto­ry is set in Italy in the first place, but direc­tor Helen Machin-Smith kicks it for­ward to 1955, with more up-to-date lutes & dress & James Dean hair & glass­es. The set­ting com­ple­ments the sto­ry, adding a roman­tic air (Jonathan Shue’s song in the mid­dle of the show gets peo­ple danc­ing — nice touch) with a splash of mod­ern stylishness…and it works.

The cast takes it from there, cre­at­ing dis­tinct peo­ple who work hard to get what they want: Petru­chio (David Fou­bert) is look­ing for a wealthy bride, and is okay with look­ing past occa­sion­al (well, fre­quent) shrewish­ness; Bian­ca (Kim­ber­ly Wood) & Lucen­tio (Jonathan Shue) wend their way through deceit & swapped iden­ti­ties to find love, togeth­er; father Bap­tista (Daniel Mayes) gets him­self the two sons-in-law that he was seek­ing; and Kather­ine (Kathyrn Met­zger) dis­cov­ers .…well, just wait till the end. She’ll tell you.

One of the chal­lenges of this script is to make Petru­chio some­how sym­pa­thet­ic, begin­ning with his big, brash entrance — David does a good job pre­sent­ing him­self to his future father-in-law with a nice mix of bold earnest­ness & humor, and shows he’s Kate’s match as he first meets her & quick­ly, head-spin­ning­ly mar­ries her right away.

It’s fun to watch David appear to soft­en as he turns away from his clash­es with Kather­ine to address the audi­ence, with a res­olute grin as he out­lines how he hopes to tame the shrewish part of her:

This is a way to kill a wife with kindness,
And thus I’ll curb her mad and head­strong humor.
He that knows bet­ter how to tame a shrew,
Now let him speak; ’tis char­i­ty to show.

Sim­i­lar­ly, Kathryn’s Kate under­goes an evo­lu­tion from bad-tem­pered (even her dad is bet­ting against her) to some­one you can imag­ine want­i­ng around. David & Kathryn cre­ate a com­pelling, enter­tain­ing dance between their char­ac­ters, and it’s great the­ater. It was fun (from where I sat) to hear peo­ple laugh­ing through the whole show, except for the parts where they were just chuckling.

The rest of the cast is strong, with Helen’s pac­ing keep­ing the show ener­getic & well-paced, with­out sac­ri­fic­ing clar­i­ty. The sub­plot with three suit­ors after Kate’s younger sis­ter Bian­ca keeps sur­fac­ing, as every­one involved pre­tends they are some­thing they are not (in marked con­trast to Petru­chio & Kather­ine, who are straight­for­ward & direct, what-you-see is what-you-get folks).

Each of the “minor” char­ac­ters plays a major role in hold­ing the sto­ry together.

Of spe­cial note: ISL reg­u­lar Alan Ged­des’s Gru­mio is a per­fect foil for his mas­ter Petru­chio, both as the butt & object of his mas­ter’s anger and as the per­son who explains his mas­ter to the world; his reac­tions to the crazi­ness around him are spot on, in one of Alan’s strongest per­for­mances to date. Dan’s Bap­tista is a super mix of respect­ful elder, slight­ly dot­ty par­ent, and deter­mined dad — he might be a lit­tle con­fused, but he knows what he wants.

Kim­ber­ly’s Bian­ca is delight­ful, so you can see why the guys like her, and brat­ty enough for us to see that it’s a two-way street with her sis­ter Kate. I liked the way ser­vants Gra­ham Craw­buck (Bion­del­lo) & Jason Marr (Tranio) cheer­ful­ly cre­ate the con­fu­sion that unrav­els at the end — they are total­ly lik­able char­ac­ters, in a total­ly lik­able show.

The play runs tonight at 8 at the Wold Road stage, then next week­end on Fri­day-Sun­day, at 8pm for its last weekend.

This is one you don’t want to miss. I’m going again tonight, and I hope to see you there!

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