Theatre Mirror Reviews - "The Taming of The Shrew"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"


entire contents copyright 2011 by Tony Annicone

"The Taming of The Shrew"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

The current show at University of Rhode Island Theatre is William Shakespeare's "The Taming of the Shrew". The show tells the story of Kate and Bianca, two unmarried daughter of a wealthy Italian merchant, Baptista. Although they are equally beautiful, they have different temperaments: Bianca is gentle and loveable, while Kate has a sharp tongue and a quick wit. Bianca has many suitors, but cannot marry until her older sister Kate does. No one has been brave enough to challenge the strong-willed Kate, until a handsome stranger named Petruchio comes to town. Hold onto your hats as the sparks fly in this high energy, bawdy tale performed in the style of commedia dell' arte. Director Alan Hawkridge updates the show to Italy in the 1950's. He chooses the best performers for each of these roles and infuses it with energy that blends the Shakespearean text to an updated setting that you almost forget you are listening to Shakespearean verse. Alan's comic touches are hidden gems in this show.

It is a contemporary look at the battle of the sexes. The gorgeous two story unit set is by Christian Wittwer while the 1950's costumes by Marilyn Salvatore are fantastic. The lighting is by David Roy while the sound design is by Mike Hyde. Cory Crew is dynamite as Petruchio. He makes the character appealing from start to finish. Most of his charm comes from the confident characterization of this role. It might seem to be a difficult task to make Petruchio a likeable character since he has misogynistic traits, but Cory exudes a charismatic aura and topnotch comic performance to win the audience over with his portrayal. He is reminiscent of James Dean. The comic Hawaiian shirt and shorts with work boots that he wears as a wedding outfit is a hoot. Betsy Rinaldi shines as Kate. She unquestionably makes her into a strong character who is bossing and tossing the others around until she is tamed. Betsy shows her unruliness and wild nature from the first scene on. And is amazing in the final monologue where she admits her submission to Petruchio. She handles going from one extreme to another with ease. Cory and Betsy's chemistry is dead on and it is terrific to see them interact with each other, especially in their first meeting when they engage in a physical and verbal fight. Cory's swaggering, self assured husband breaks through the barrier of words Kate puts up between herself and marriage. Betsy's stomping up and down the stairs is hilarious during the opening segment.

Lucentio and Bianca are played beautifully by Jesse Dufault and Shannon Hartman. Both of them play up the zaniness needed for these roles. Jesse disguises himself as a language teacher to get close to woo her and when she jumps on top of him during a kissing scene is a standout moment in the show. Shannon captures the duality of the role by being nice and crafty, too. Bianca's other suitors are well played by Travis Green as Gremio, an older neighbor who lusts after her while Miles Boucher is a hoot as Hortensio who is dressed as a nerd and later on pretends to be a beatnik music teacher but ends up married to a widow. Kira Hawkridge plays Baptista, Kate and Bianca's mother. She commands the stage in this role, creating a dynamic character. Kira handles the transition of long suffering mother to a joyful one when Kate is finally tamed after many years of bad behavior. The three biggest scene stealers in this show are the men's servants. Johnny Sederquist as Grumio, Joshua Andrews as Biondello and Albert Cohelo as Tranio are hilarious in their roles. Johnny does many pratfalls and wild antics as Petruchio's nervous servant while Josh plays Lucentio's foppish servant who wins many laughs at his zany behavior. Albert transforms himself into a heroic figure as he helps Lucentio win Bianca's hand. Josh Christensen plays Lucentio's father, Vincentio who gets caught up in the mistaken identity madness in the final scene. I played Vincentio back in 1990 for TRIST. So for a madcap, slapstick romp that will have you rolling in the aisles, be sure to catch "The Taming of the Shrew" at URI.

"The Taming of The Shrew" (3 - 13 March)
URI THEATRE
@ Will Theatre, Upper College Road, KINGSTON RI
1 (401)874-5843

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