Theatre Mirror Reviews - "The Taming of The Shrew"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"


entire contents copyright 2001 by Joe Coyne

"The Taming of The Shrew"

Reviewed by Joe Coyne

by William Shakespeare
Directed by Brendan Hughes

Set Design by Nathan Pyritz
Lighting Design by Amanda Trottier
Stage Manager Brooke Spangler

Miss Daisy Spray...........................................David Hanbury
Mayor Sticklysnatch...................................Tony Dangerfield
Melba T. ....................................................Anastasia Barnes
Sylvester "Sly" Beau.......................................Wayne Vargas
Reverend Jones........................................Michael Makowski
Haystack Hugh Yalesby..............................Paddy Plainstreet
****************************
Lucentio...................................................Nathaniel McIntyre
Tranio............................................................Rodney Raftery
Bianca...............................................................Stacy Fischer
Baptista...........................................................Ray McDavitt
Kate.................................................................Mary Kearney
Hortensio...................................................Christopher Cook
Gremio..........................................................Marty Simmons
Biondello........................................................David Hanbury
Petruchio............................................................Jason Myatt
Grumio....................................................George Saulnier III
Nathaniel..................................................Michael Makowski
Widow........................................................Anastasia Barnes
Curtis.............................................................Wayne Vargas

Why a makeshift barn in rural Kentucky during the Depression? The reasons for setting plays in different locales than the playwright's intent should be found within the play and enhance the director's viewpoint. With Brendan Hughes' production of "The Taming of the Shrew" at The Theatre Cooperative he receives high marks for the "within a play" and serious wonderings on his Kentucky placement. Questions hovered over the entire production from his choices.

I liked the country western hoe down charity fund raiser for the mayor's new operation put on by the Hick Village Drama Club. The incoherent Elvisclone, the three legged race, the banter about the poor townspeople, the noshow of Little Johnny Kurtz. I liked them all. I also like Ben & Jerry's ice cream.

The Kentucky antics started before the audience arrived and continued without breaking stride until the "Shrew" began. The audience was transported to the barn and we sat around the stage with seats chosen by the Kentuckians (?) interacting and becoming part of the action. The only thing missing were a few bales of hay. The barn motif was again picked up a bit at intermission and then was never seen again. From the Mayor and Haystack (the drama club director) and the ever lovely Miss Daisy we had been promised some efforts on the behalf of undertrodden women, intimation of trouble with the alcoholic beau of Miss Daisy and an illusion of possible acting difficulty with the childlike Melba T.

The promises and opening scenes raised these questions and had my imagination working overtime as I watched a very good production of Shrew:

- why not more consistent mayhem tied into the play
- what happened to the limp of the mayor?
- what was the purpose of the discussion and of the rough handling between Miss Daisy and her Beau
- why would the accordion player do a rendition of that CW favorite "My Hat it Has Three Corners" to the empty barn at intermission?
- are then, women still possessions in Kentucky as they are in Padua?

It reminded me of what are considered flaws in a play by the great William Shakespeare. That play opens as a drunken townsman Christopher Sly is led to believe that he is minor royalty watching a play. That Sly has a few more lines in the following acts before the theme is dropped. But wait, I think it is the same play as this one. This same playwright (Shakespeare) also had members of his company who needed care and feeding with minimum lines and guaranteed character parts. Could it be goose to gander? One thing was certain: the company was having a hell of a good time.

Shrew offers such comic possibilities for the actors and COOP found more than their share. Ray McDavitt worked Baptista's part well and Anastasia Barnes had four chances. She made good on all of them. Kate and Petruchio worked well together with enjoyable facial contortions by Mary Kearney as Kate as she learned how to be obedient. What light of independence she gave us in these earlier scenes was totally extinguished in her final duties of wife subjection. The fight scene between them was a bit violent, if you view Petruchio as sensitive from the start. The humping efforts of Bianca and Lucentio seemed to have caught both actors by surprise on opening night and was a comic delight.

Now here I have written on about how well the Kentucky fund raiser goes and the enjoyment of Padua marriage negotiations. Enjoy them both but let not the wonder of why they are together catch in your craw.

Joe Coyne
jcoyne@usa.net

"The Taming of the Shrew" (11 May - 2 June)
THE THEATRE COOPERATIVE
277 Broadway, SOMMERVILLE, MA
1(617) 625-1300

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