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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# 3694

SHOWING : April 10, 2010 - May 16, 2010

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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? ASC’s Taming of the Shrew is a guaranteed evening of laughter and love.


CAST & CREW LIST
Director Drew Reeves
Costume Designer Anne Carole Butler
Lighting Designer Trish Harris
Assistant Stage Manager Redd Horrocks-Maier
Stage Manager Deborah McGriff
Gremio/Haberdasher Tony Brown
Curtis/Officer Dan Brown
Bianca Kelly Criss
Hortensio Nicholas Faircloth
Grumio Matt Felten
Widow Sevawn Foster
Biondello Andrew Houchins
Baptista Doug Kaye
Petruchio J.C. Long
Lucentio Mike Niedzwiecki
Tranio Daniel Parvis
Pedant Clarke Weigle
Vincentio/Tailor Troy Willis
Katherina Maureen Yasko
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REVIEWS

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That's Funny! She Doesn't Look Shrewish!
by Dedalus
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
5.0
Now, this is the Shakespeare Tavern in top form. An almost perfect amalgam of directorial inspiration, sharp-edged (and hard-fisted) characterizations, clear and understandable diction, lively fight choreography, and an ale-mug-full of fresh and funny ideas, all in the service of a play done so often we can almost mouth the words along with the characters.

In fact, I’ve seen (and been part of) more productions of “Shrew” than any other piece in the Bardic canon, and, I can say without reservation, that the current mounting at the Tavern is one of the best.

The play starts out on a high note, as Lucentio and Tranio wander onto a Padua street, rife with artists, philosophers, and clowns. A wandering poet recites a rather Liverpudlian verse and a painter’s model becomes a target for Lucentio’s lechery. Onto the scene bursts the daughters of Baptista, railing and fighting like siblings through the ages.

Do you really need me to recap the plot?

What works best here is the incredibly energetic and innovative cast. Anchored by the boisterously blustery J.C. Long and Maureen Yasko as Petruchio and Katherine (whose first scene together, incidentally, carries more unspoken lust-at-first-sight heat than a spay-your-pet training film), each and every character brings something new and unexpected to the table. Kelly Criss’ Bianca brings a high level of little-sister brattiness (and a marvelously lecherous streak reminiscent of a Girls-Gone-Wild video), Nicholas Faircloth’s Hortensio is over-the-top foolish and amusingly naïve, Daniel Parvis’ Tranio is delightfully peacocky when he puts on Lucentio’s clothes, Matt Felton’s Grumio is a fireball of conniving energy, Tony Brown’s Gremio is grotesquely lecherous, Andrew Houchins’ Biondello is sweetly dim, Mike Niedzwiecki’s Lucentio is more in-heat character-actor than pretty-boy ingénue, Doug Kaye’s Baptista is slyly exasperated and always “in his cups” (with a running empty-goblet gag that pays off nicely in the dénouement), Sevawn Foster’s Widow is Amazonian and fearsome. I can go on and on about each and every actor, each and every role, but you get my point. As icing on the cake, they all gel into a perfect ensemble of characters who act like they’ve known (and liked) each other for years, like they are all from the same time and place, like they really belong with each other.

But let’s get back to Ms. Yasko and Mr. Long. Here we have a Kate and Petruchio who are a perfect match. Going beyond their initial attraction for each other, they show us a couple who start off hot and only get hotter the more they know each other. Ms. Yasko gives us a Kate who really enjoys the competition, yet is not afraid to show us a vulnerable, even lonely side. Mr. Long, likewise, isn’t afraid to share a moment here and there of doubt and insecurity. Both actors make crystal clear that these characters have so much more to them than volume and slapstick, that, as a couple, they make the more “traditional” pairings seem bland and unexciting.

And it is that subtext, that unspoken connection, that makes Katherine’s final speech work, even in the context of our more liberated times. Emphasizing “love” and “honor” more than “obey,” it carries the implicit message that the “obey” is part and parcel of the marriage, and is only granted when it is earned. Director Drew Reeves underscores the point by having Petruchio draw Katherine to her feet, implying that this is a marriage of equals.

It is a credit to Mr. Reeves and his cast, that, after so many “Shrews” in the past, this production makes the story, the characters seem fresh and exciting, even in the context of the Tavern’s “traditional” style (as if tossing in some Lennon/McCartney is in any way traditional). The over-the-top charm of the actors really made me love them and their eccentricities all over again, made me care about what happened to them. And their top-notch delivery reminded me why the language of Shakespeare is timeless and beautiful, why his plays touch a part of my emotional core totally missed by more contemporary plays with their soul-deadening slang/idiom, their too-often interchangeable syntaxes and banal modes of communication.

This production is also a beautiful reminder that, no matter how poetic Shakespeare’s characters express themselves, in the hands of masters, the unspoken communications are equally (often more) poetic and compelling.

Oh, did I mention this is also one of the funniest productions to ever find its way on stage?

-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)




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“Taming of the Shrew” is all the rage
by Lady Mac
Monday, April 12, 2010
4.5
The chemistry between the actor and actress playing Petruchio and Kate is vital to any production of “Taming of the Shrew.” In the Shakespeare Tavern’s latest production of this wild Shakespearean comedy, the chemistry is electric between the leads and representative of the overall excellence of the cast, which clicks all the way around. It’s a laugh-out-loud – and just plain LOUD – tour de force of well-choreographed chaos and slapstick with just the right amount of true, deep emotion to keep it from becoming a caricature.

J.C. Long and Maureen Yasko star as Petruchio and Kate, and both exercise their lungs to full effect. As with “King Lear” last month, this sometimes leads to the blurring of lines amid the rage, but it’s not as much of a problem in this production. Long, in particular, has a tendency to express himself at a high volume, though he has shown – notably as Ariel in “The Tempest” – that he can be subtle and nuanced when he wants to be. Fortunately, Petruchio is the perfect outlet for Long’s bombastic side, but he also handles the sentimental parts well and shows a real (and believable) tenderness toward Kate when the character lets down his guard.

Yasko is a gem. From the moment she appears on stage with her sister, Bianca, Kate’s strength and depth are conveyed through sheer body language. Bianca comes across as a paper doll – two-dimensional, uninteresting – while Kate, shrieking and “shrewish” and all, clearly has much more beneath the surface. Yasko makes it easy to see how Petruchio could be challenged and intrigued by Kate, despite her railing, while the rest of the shallow men in Padua look no deeper than the picture-perfect exterior of Baptista’s younger daughter.

And yet, while yelling and flailing to full effect, Yasko turns on a dime to bring the audience under her spell and gain sympathy. The audience shares her disappointment and broken heart when she believes she has been humiliated by the no-show groom on her wedding day. Her performance in this scene may be the best I’ve ever seen.

Much of the play is the aforementioned slapstick, which is executed impressively – especially the scenes when the newlyweds arrive home to perhaps the worst domestic staff ever assembled. The lunatic ballet that ensues is amazingly well-orchestrated, even in the play’s opening week. Dialogue? Forget it in this scene, and just enjoy the spectacle!

But for all its Three Stooges-esque shenanigans, the play also has heart. The tender moments between Petruchio and Kate are best illustrated by a beautiful touch in this production during the pair’s first onstage “kiss,” which recalls – with a delightful twist – a far-less-sweet gesture from an earlier scene. It’s one of several exceptional directorial decisions that add layers, color and depth to the text.

The rest of the cast shone as well, with very few exceptions. At some point, one of my reviews may indicate that Daniel Parvis or Mike Niedzwiecki has totally bungled a role, but I would not hold my breath for that if I were you. Pairing these two was brilliant, and their scenes together are basically flawless. In fact, all the male actors interact with one another as if they are fraternity brothers. The entire cast works together wonderfully and supportively, with no upstaging – the best sense of an ensemble.

A couple of roles are interpreted a little differently in this production than in “Shrews” past. Doug Kaye’s Baptista, never without a goblet in hand, runs the gamut from mildly tipsy to nearly intoxicated. And Tony Brown’s Gremio comes across as, well, more lecherous, creepy and old than any I’ve seen before. His obsession with Bianca felt a little disturbing, honestly, and left his “poor me,” “my-cake-is-dough” scenes a bit hollow. The audience feels more relief at Bianca’s escaping that fate than pity for the spurned would-be husband.

Other standouts in this mostly all-star lineup included Matt Felten as the saucy (and hilarious) servant, Grumio; Andrew Houchins, uncharacteristically subdued as the dim, disgruntled servant Biondello; and Troy Willis as the feared and respected Vincentio, ingeniously defined in this production.

The finale of this play is a tough pill to swallow for many modern women, and the “big speech” by Kate (SPOILER ALERT: The “shrew” gets “tamed”) is especially difficult. However, bearing in mind the play’s setting and succumbing to the sincerity and honesty with which Yasko delivers the speech make it a fine bit of poetry and theater, whether one shares Kate’s philosophy or not.

So check your Helen Reddy CDs at the door and do yourself the favor of going to see “Taming of the Shrew” at the Tavern.
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