Anyway, here's the review, I'll be back later with more drivel. This was originally posted at Arts A La Mode.
THE TAMING OF THE SHREW
By William Shakespeare
Directed Chris O'Neill
June 21-30, Shakespeare Carolina at Theatre Charlotte
Shakespeare’s plays, even his comedies, can be challenging for both performers and audiences alike. Too often, the bard’s beautiful language is treated with so much respect that the lines are handed out to the audience like dusty antiques. It was therefore a relief for me that Shakespeare Carolina’s newest offering, "The Taming of the Shrew," tossed lines out to the audience not like antiques but more like rubber chickens. This utter love and, more importantly, enjoyment of language is the key to this production’s success.
"The Taming of the Shrew" focuses on the battle of the sexes. This production sets the action in a fantasy version of the late fifties and early sixties. A mix of Austin Powers and Laugh In. The producers of this play usually perform outside, and there is an energy to the performance that benefits from that experience.
Technically the production makes the most of what must be limited resources. The set, a Mondrian-styled collection of multi-colored squares (think Partridge Family bus), acts as a constant reminder that whimsy is the name of the game. The costumes by Susy Hartness are a joy.
The conflict of the play centers on the competition for the love of the lovely Bianca (played as a kind of “Gidget Goes to Padua” by Amy Laughter). The problem, as we know, is that no one can have Bianca until the older “shrew” of a sister is married. It is one of the most surreal and humorous moments of the play when Kate (played by the very funny Karen Surprise) enters for the first time. Dressed in white Go-Go boots, a retro mini-dress, and a helmet of platinum hair, there’s never been a shrew so stylish. Surprise is tart and playful. Of course, every Shrew needs someone to tame them, and this production gives us an oily, charming, game show host of a Petruchio played by the excellent John G. Hartness.
To even attempt to outline the chaotic farcical plot of this classic comedy would be madness. Suffice it say that many of the cast disguise themselves from one another, and this production cleverly uses rubber nose glasses to comical effect. Bianca’s sighing suitors are a trio of clowns. Jonathan Ewart plays Hortensio as an insane shriner complete with red fez and vest. His larger than life performance is another highlight of the production. His rival Gremio is played by the very funny Jimmy Cartee who makes the most of a variety of sailor costumes and alcoholic beverages.
There are also many more fine performances. Drew Nowlin is the earnest yet comic Lucentio (the one who gets the girl); Beau Tison is Baptista, the father of the two sisters; Nick Iammatteo is the opportunistic but always loyal servant Tranio; Sarah Eckhard, dressed in a sexy leather catsuit, is Petruchiou’s flirtatious servant Grumia; and Raj Karottukunnel is the stylish and powerful Vincentio; Cameron Jagoe, a young man with a wonderful sense of comic timing and a big voice, plays Biondello; and Brian White plays a the Pedant, a man caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. The rest of the cast is equally capable and completes this ensemble.
This is worth checking out. For those less experienced with Shakespeare, it’s probably worth looking up a plot outline online before attending. Sit back and enjoy this delightfully irreverent production. Review by Tim Baxter-Ferguson