The current show at the Gamm Theatre is Shakespeare's "The Taming of the Shrew". It is a contemporary look at the battle-of the sexes where Petruchio takes on the task of marrying outspoken Kate and "taming'' her, so that her younger sister, Bianca, can finally marry. Director Peter Sampieri updates the show to the early 1960's and sets it in an Italian-American neighborhood. He chooses the best people for each of the roles and infuses it with energy that blends the Shakespearean text to an updated setting that you kind of forget that you are listening to Shakespearean verse. His comic touches are hidden gems in this show.
The theatre is transformed into this town by a set by Sara Ossana that depicts Baptista's house and the various settings throughout the town while David Howard's costumes are as magnificent as usual. Tony Estrella as the lead, Petruchio, is appealing from start to finish. Most of his charm comes from the confident characterization of Petruchio. It seems like a hard task to make him a likeable character since he has misogynistic traits, but Estrella exudes perfect comedy and charisma. Jeanine Kane shines as Kate. She unquestionably makes her into a strong character who is constantly bossing and tossing the other characters around until she is tamed. Jeanine shows her unruliness and shows the wild nature from the beginning to the final monologue where she admits her submission to Petruchio. She handles going from one extreme to the other expertly. Their chemistry is dead-on and it is terrific to see them play off each other, especially in their first meetings where they entangle themselves in a physical and verbal fight. Tony's swaggering, self assured husband breaks through the barrier of words Kate puts up between herself and marriage. The leads are splendid.
Lucentio and Biana are played beautifully by Josh Short and Jillian Blevins. Both performers play up the zaniness needed for these roles. He disguises himself as a language teacher to get close to her to woo her. Jillian captures the duality of the role by being nice and crafty, too. Two wonderful up and coming performers. Biana's other two suitors are played by Sam Babbitt and Jim O'Brien. Sam as Gremio is an older neighbor lusting after Bianca while Jim as Hortensio ends up marrying a widow buts woos Bianca first by disguising himself as a beatnik, music teacher. The father figure in the show is played by Tom Gleadow, a godfather type. He makes Baptista, the long suffering father of Kate and Bianca become joyful when he sees the transformation of his willfull daughter after years of her bad behavior.
The two biggest scene stealers in the show are the men's servants, Grumio played by Casey Seymour Kim and Tranio played by Steve Kidd. Casey gets to show off her beautiful singing voice in many 1960's numbers including "Leader of the Pack". She gets to do many pratfalls during the show which are hilarious. Steve strikes poses to the music and transforms himself from a nerd to heroic figure with ease. He also gets beaten up by Lucentio in the first scene which leads to many laughs. Both performers do well as Shakespeare's clowns. Other cast members playing various roles include Dave Rabinow as a wandering minstrel, Marc Dante Mancini, Tray Gearing as the widow, Ralph Stokes as the Pedant and Chuck Reifler as Vincentio, Lucentio's father. So for a slapstick romp that will have you rolling in the aisles, be sure to catch "The Taming of the Shrew" before time runs out. Tell them Tony sent you.