The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.0399 Thursday, 24 February 2000.
From: W. L. Godshalk <
Date: Wednesday, 23 Feb 2000 16:02:28 -0500
Subject: Cincinnati Shakespeare Festival's Taming of the Shrew
The Cincinnati Shakespeare Festival's Taming of the Shrew, directed by
Barbara Pinolini, opened of February 17, and will run through March 12.
All of the reviews have been positive, and I am posting the review by
Ron Cross (with his permission):
Such a mad marriage never was!
Hilarious! I've never laughed harder in a theater. Imagine Jethro
Clampett speaking in iambic pentameter. Then add the physical comedy of
circus clowns. I laughed so hard I was sweating.
Cincinnati Shakespeare Festival, in its latest jaunt into renaissance
drama, brings us Taming of the Shrew, wild-west style. Guest director
Barbara Pinolini says "We're setting our story in the late 1800's during
the expansion of the West, when women's roles were constantly being
redefined as we journeyed into a new century."
The premise of The Shrew is an easy target for feminists. It's a play
about a man, Petruchio, who neglects his wife, Katherine, and denies her
any comfort until she learns to be cooperative. However, beyond that, it
is about the modern notion of becoming whatever you want to become-you
think it, you are it, regardless of fact-and portraying yourself however
you choose. This actually gets right down to the art of acting-think one
thing and doing something different.
Kate is instinctual, and uses her gut reaction. Petruchio teaches her
control, to say something convincingly while thinking its exact
opposite. Essentially, he teaches her the irony of human interaction.
The play opens with Lucentio and Tranio, known in other lives as the
Lone Ranger and Tonto, arriving in fair Padua. Joe Verciglio plays
Lucentio, and once again does a turn as "love-struck young man," but
he's good at it. Giles Davis plays the ironically smug imposter,
Tranio. Very quickly, Lucentio falls in love with Bianca, the second
daughter of Baptista played by Andy Gaukel (also known as Hoss from
Gunsmoke), and younger sister to the fiery, headstrong Katharine.
Katharine, the tomboy, the cowgirl, played ferociously by Lesley Bevan,
is brutal. She seems to hate everyone, and everyone is afraid of her,
even dad. You start to feel sorry for her, though. She gets so
frustrated. She just has some autonomy issues. And she knows what people
think of her. She knows that people think she's a wild child and a
bitch, so she plays that role.
Her little sister Bianca, the object of everyone's affection, the
southern belle, played by Corinne Mohlenhoff, has a couple of improbable
suitors, a dorky cowboy named Hortensio (Brian Isaac Phillips) and
rickety old gentleman named Gremio (Sylvester Little), but she can't get
married until Katharine's married, not that she actually wants to marry
either of these guys, but they don't know that.
Lucentio and Tranio decide that the best way to get close to Bianca is
to dress Tranio (Tonto) as Lucentio (the Lone Ranger), and Lucentio as
Cambio, a music teacher. So the servant becomes the master, and the
master becomes Bianca's music teacher. Confused yet? It's much easier to
understand in person than it is too explain.
Next, Hortensio sends for Petruchio to come marry Katharine (get her out
of the way) so that either he or Gremio can marry Bianca. And they're
both actually going to pay Petruchio to do this. However, they don't
know that Lucentio has entered the competition.
So now, an improbably short Petruchio enters, played by Jeremy Dubin.
And it's obvious why Hortensio chose Petruchio. He's only guy who could
ever handle Katharine, and the only guy who can get away with calling
her Kate. Once, when warned about her temper, Petruchio responds, "I am
rough, and woo not like a babe." Although Petruchio is a tough guy,
Dubin's Petruchio is not so superhumanly tough as Richard Burton's. In a
small scene well into the taming you begin to see his fatigue. It
becomes obvious that Petruchio is acting too.
However, the fireworks between Kate and Petruchio aren't the whole show.
The rest of the characters seem to think that they're the stars of the
play. And man, are they funny! For example, R. Chris Reeder is hilarious
as usual as Grumio, working the onstage audience into the act, dressing
the part for the Petruchio's wedding, and providing inspirational
accompaniment to one of Petruchio's speeches in Act 1.
Keland Scher plays Biondello, another of Petruchio's servants, and I
really look forward to seeing him play something more than a running
One of the best parts about this production is that none of the roles
are wasted. Nor is any chance to make a joke. Although the play is not
written to specifically be funny is certain places, CSF finds a way to
work up laughs. There's not a single character or actor in the play that
won't make you laugh. For example, those who are familiar with Nick
Rose-the guy with really big voice-will crack up at his roles in Shrew.
They're mostly minor roles, but he's so funny in them, especially if
you're familiar with his previous work.
Giles Davis does a small part as Petruchio's bumbling cook, Curtis. R.
Chris Reeder does a small role as a weak-kneed teacher who pretends to
be imposter-Lucentio's father. But the funniest minor role is Sylvester
Little as The Widow, Hortensio's rather masculine new wife.
The Taming of the Shrew is being presented at The Cincinnati Shakespeare
Festival, 719 Race Street, Downtown, and runs through March 12.