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The Taming of the Shrew

a Comedy
CATEGORY : COMEDY
by William Shakespeare

COMPANY : The New American Shakespeare Tavern [WEBSITE]
VENUE : The New American Shakespeare Tavern [WEBSITE]
ID# 4917

SHOWING : June 23, 2016 - July 10, 2016

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

Welcome to the Bard’s famous comedic “battle of the sexes.” Will Petruchio be able to tame his Kate, turning the “shrew” into a doting wife, or will the lady hold fast to her wild, independent ways and turn the tables on him? ASC’s "Taming of the Shrew" is a guaranteed evening of laughter and love. "The Taming of the Shrew" contains graphic Elizabethan poetry of a lascivious nature performed by professional actors whose job it is to make it clear.


CAST & CREW LIST
Director Jeff Watkins
Costume Designer Anne Carole Butler
Production Stage Manager Cindy Kearns
Lighting Designer Mary Ruth Ralston
Gremio/Servant Tony Brown
Biondello Patrick Galletta
Katherina Dani Herd
Widow/Servant Nathan Hesse
Hortensio Paul Hester
Baptista/Servant Doug Kaye
Tranio Adam Daniel King
Petruchio Matt Nitchie
Grumio Drew Reeves
Bianca/Servant Kristin Storla
Pedant/Servant Clarke Weigle
Vicentio/Friar/Servant Troy Willis
Lucentio Trey York
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REVIEWS

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Untamed
by playgoer
Sunday, July 3, 2016
4.5
Shakespeare’s "The Taming of the Shrew" has a lot going on in it aside from the taming of the tempestuous Kate. Kate, after all, only has one suitor; her sister Bianca has three. In the current Shakespeare Tavern production, focus is spread across the full range of characters, with great comic set pieces for just about all the actors. Director Jeff Watkins has assembled a collection of fine comic actors and character actors, seemingly giving them free reign to elicit audience laughter at every opportunity. But when the laughs are this consistent, it’s the director who deserves the lion’s share of credit for inspiring and shaping performances that jell into a jocular whole.

Costumes and set are par for the course for the Shakespeare Tavern; lighting (by Mary Ruth Ralston) is a bit more atmospheric than in many productions, with a nice approximation of dawn at the start of the play. Accompanied music plays less of a role in the proceedings than is usual, but unaccompanied vocal "stylings" are used to comic effect (although the anachronistic use of the theme from "I Dream of Jeanie" is jarringly used for a cheap laugh). The production is thoroughly professional from top to bottom.

Listing the highlights of the production necessitates going through the cast list, one by one. Patrick Galletta, in the minor role of Biondello, gets laughs through his physical comedy; Adam King, as servant Tranio, combines physical exaggeration and an overbearingly regal bearing to get more laughs. Clarke Weigle inspires giggles through his befuddlement as a pedant pressed into service as the counterfeit father to a counterfeit son, and Nathan Hesse gets belly laughs as a bearded, belligerent widow. Troy Willis has audience members barely able to contain non-stop laughter as his Vincentio affects a mobster accent. Drew Reeves steals focus as servant Grumio at every opportunity, matching his master’s comedy at every step.

Matt Nitchie, as that master, invests Petruchio with such confident comic bravado that he practically becomes a force of nature. Non-stop movement keeps twitchy Nitchie at the center of every scene he’s in. Dani Herd’s Kate, in contrast, relies on a quiet, threatening presence to earn her shrewish reputation, although she’s perfectly capable of vocal fireworks when provoked. Even so, this production emphasizes the romance between these two, with a love-at-first-sight undercurrent that softens the edges of their relationship. It works to drive the action to the end point of "they’re going to get together," but deflates some of the contentiousness in the first part of the second act, where Kate is supposedly being tamed by Petruchio, when we have already seen that it’s only a matter of time before she submits.

Kate’s "I am ashamed that women are so simple" speech doesn’t bring the show to a close the way it can. In fact, in this production, it could easily have been cut. The audience is ready to applaud an ending when Petruchio exits, victorious and in love, and the lights dim. When the lights immediately come up again for the final scene, it’s a bit of a let-down.

Now to get back to the rundown of the cast... Doug Kaye gives a nice performance as tippling Baptista, although his projection isn’t quite equal to the rest of the cast. Trey York and Paul Hester perhaps resemble one another too much as Lucentio and Hortensio, but both give fine performances as suitors to Baptista’s younger daughter, Bianca. J. Tony Brown plays a more over-the-top suitor, punctuating his raptures with squeaky sighs that never fail to get a laugh. Kristin Storla, as Bianca, adds so much comic depth to her character that she is hardly the bland, blonde, simpering trophy wife that the script can paint her as. She has the demure and lovely looks, for sure, but there’s a randy spirit inside her that she cannot keep contained. Consequently, the audience can’t keep their laughter contained.

Jeff Watkins has utilized the talents of his cast superbly. This "Taming of the Shrew" is hardly the two-character tour-de-force for Petruchio and Kate that is sometimes is. Every role is filled (or overfilled) with tacky tics and tongue-tripping turns of phrase that amp up the comedy coefficient to the level of hilarity. Productions hardly get better at the Shakespeare Tavern.
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