Even a Shrew Just Wants to Have Fun

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Elisabeth Preston (Petruchio), Catherine Talton (Hortensio) and Laura E. Johnston (Gremio) in the Queen's Company's Taming of the Shrew. Photo © Bob Pileggi.

Elisabeth Preston (Petruchio), Catherine Talton (Hortensio) and Laura E. Johnston (Gremio) in the Queen’s Company’s Taming of the Shrew. Photo © Bob Pileggi.

Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare
The Queen’s Company at The Wild Project
Directed by Rebecca Patterson
April 23, 2016

This production, by an all-female classical theater company, is an all-out good time with both players and the audience revealing many new approaches to a well-loved classic. Riffing on Shakespeare’s work, the actors move through their roles transcending gender in what director Patterson calls “a true reflection of our rich and complex contemporary community.” So well do they do their jobs that several of the interchanges, notably the affection that finally shines forth between Catharine, the shrew, and Petruchio, her husband, is more affecting than in many heterosexual portrayals.

Nylda Mark rocks her roles both as Baptista, Catherine’s father, and a poufy haberdasher. During one song, her expression and neck movements mesmerize. (Contemporary music — Girls Just Wanna’ Have Fun, The Book of Love, Going to the Chapel and others — is inserted throughout the production, sometimes lip-lynched, other times for dancing.)

Petruchio as played by Elisabeth Preston, is robust, clever and entirely in command as he/she skillfully breaks down Catherine’s defenses, depriving her of food, sleep and warmth claiming nothing is good enough for her. Ashley Samona Baker, taking on the role of Grumio, Petruchio’s servant, as well as other characters in a nod to the doubling that was standard in Shakespeare’s day,  is a pleasure to watch, whether snatching food from famished Catherine or lording over the others in her master’s raggle-taggle retinue.

Great praise is due Rebecca Patterson for clever dialogue cuts (and repetitions in places the Bard didn’t indicate), spirited pacing and the insertion of contemporary twists that modernize the work without losing its essential spirit. My only quibble is with the introductory scene about a letter that adds nothing to what follows.

The facile, high spirited actors seem to be having a wonderful time and early on gender ceases to matter as the spirit and sheer pleasure of Shakespeare’s language and plot developments shine forth. The staging shows what can be accomplished simply with a talented cast, thoughtful direction and minimal though effective sets, costumes and lighting. Pop music and the truly doll-like Bianca ratchet up the fun.

The Queen’s Company is a non-profit organization dedicated to the creation of innovative productions of classical plays featuring all-female casts. In the fourteen years since Paterson founded the group they have garnered critical acclaim from esteemed publications including The New York Times, Washington Post and The New Yorker. Bravas all around.

About the author

Mari S. Gold

Mari S. Gold is a freelance writer who contributes to many magazines and websites. Her blog, But I Digress… , on cultural events, travel, food  and other topics is at www.marigoldonline.net. She lives in New York City.

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