Author: Beki Pineda

BOULDER MAGAZINE: Review: The Taming of the Shrew

It’s a bright and shiny evening of Shakespeare – suitable for the kids and a great way to introduce them to the Bard.

Written in the early 1590s, THE TAMING OF THE SHREW is often criticized by those steeped in the modern sensibilities regarding the relationships between men and women. No woman in her right mind would put up with being described as “my horse, my ox, my ass, my any thing” as Petruchio describes his Katherina. I choose to believe that even Shakespeare understood this about women, and wrote this as an examination of the misogyny he saw around him, with his tongue planted firmly in his cheek. After all, who comes out looking bad in the final scene? The three men who bet on the behavior of their wives, with only Katherina displaying “domestic” bliss. Even then, it’s obvious that even Petruchio is not really sure that Katherina will obey and is visibly relieved when she does. The other two women have a “you’ve got to be kidding” attitude toward the demands of their husbands – which predicts a little more “taming” to be done.

This production softens the usual harsh conflict between the lovers by creating a subtle electricity between Petruchio and Katherina the first moment they meet. It’s as if their eyes meet, their hearts open, and their brains say “Aha, a match for me.” So while they play the game of feuding, arguing and taming, they both know from the beginning that it is a game they both will win. The casting of Scott Coopwood as Petruchio and Shelly Gaza, making her CSF debut, as Katherina allows this subtle dance of emotions to evolve. “OK, I’ll play your silly game – but we both know who rules this roost,” they both seem to think.

The complicated subplot of the wooing of Bianca by multiple (some disguised) suitors is kept clear in the audience’s eyes by the clever use of costumes to keep the players straight. Bianca, the sweet sister, is played with wit by Rachel Turner. Her suitors are Hortensio (Casey Andree) as the music tutor; Cambio (Christopher Joel Onken), the poetry tutor who is actually Lucentio in disguise and supposedly wooing on behalf of Gremio but actually wooing for himself; and Tranio (Tony Ryan), who is actually Lucentio’s servant but is pretending to be Lucentio while Lucentio is pretending to be a tutor. See what I mean?  But believe it or not, in the viewing, you can keep it all straight because of the quality acting of all the players and the clever way each character is denoted with costumes and mannerisms. 

You can dress Shakespeare up in all kinds of clothes and plunk the story down anywhere in history you want – but it’s always the same glorious story. This production uses Little Italy at the end of World War II with Katherina as a returning pilot, a wartime position that gives her more power and prestige than a Katherina in Shakespeare’s own time could ever have achieved. But her accomplishments are largely ignored by the men in her life, still mired in the masculine role models of an Italian society. Her experience, however, seems to give her the insight into her potential equal relationship with the suitor chosen by her father.

So it’s a bright and shiny evening of Shakespeare – suitable for the kids and a great way to introduce them to the Bard. A lovely set, beautiful costumes, enough schtick to keep the kids laughing, and fun for the adults as well.

WOW factor: 8.5

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