DAILY CAMERA: Review: Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s ‘Taming of the Shrew’ wins with charm, depth
Blind fealty is problematic under any contemporary lens.
(Above: Scott Coopwood (Petruchio) and Shelly Gaza (Kate) star in the Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s production of “Taming of the Shrew.” Jennifer Koskinen / University of Colorado)
Personal independence is an essential aspect of modern life. It’s a cherished value that undergirds the U.S. Constitution, one that’s steered the broader history of the Western world. Autonomy is the philosophical gold standard in our time, a guiding principle in questions of politics, commerce and, yes, even romance and love.
That’s only a small part of what makes “The Taming of the Shrew” potentially problematic for modern audiences. The comedy, which debuted this weekend as the first offering in the Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s 60th season, raises even deeper questions of sexism and subjugation.
On its surface, William Shakespeare’s romance extols unyielding and uncritical devotion in matters of the heart — more specifically, these are the expectations when it comes to a woman’s role in a relationship.
The journey of Katherina, the titular unruly “shrew” of the piece, is one toward seeming servitude. After her father Baptista has approved her marriage to Petruchio, Kate is expected to abandon her fiercely independent, unpleasant ways and morph into a loyal wife, one who won’t question her husband’s assertions that the sun is the moon and one who’ll immediately report when beckoned. To affect this transformation, Kate is starved, deprived of sleep and abused.
Like the antisemitism of “The Merchant of Venice,” the overt sexism and masculine smugness of “Shrew” are a potential challenge for any modern company. The CSF production, however, handles the show’s stickier questions with grace and ease, plumbing the material for its more timeless truths and offering a context that sheds some contemporary tones on the characters’ motivations.
Director Christopher DuVal leads a seasoned cast through a vibrant and vital take on the comedy, which has remained one of the Bard’s most popular titles for modern audiences, despite its Elizabethan take on gender roles. The CSF show drills down to the essence of the work’s longevity, finding the heart of the central romance and thus highlighting the more timeless, universal aspects of the story.