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THE TAMING OF THE SHREW

Can one tame the untamable? That is the question The Old Globe and Director Shana Cooper tried to answer with the current production of TAMING OF THE SHREW, now playing under the stars in the Lowell Davies Festival Theatre through July 10th. Starring Deborah Ann Woll and James Udom as the headstrong pair Petruchio and Katherine, a lovely set, and a sense of playful fun, the show is successfully turned into a fun romantic comedy, though never fully overcomes the questionable behavior built into the script.

Deborah Ann Woll as Katherine and James Udom as Petruchio photo by Jim Cox.
Deborah Ann Woll as Katherine and James Udom as Petruchio photo by Jim Cox.

THE TAMING OF THE SHREW is one of Shakespeare’s most enduring problematic plays; as Katherine is married off to a stranger by her father, and then subsequently “tamed” by Petruchio through gaslighting and lack of food and sleep until she a docile wife. Shana Cooper aims to shift the perspective on it, and have Petruchio and Kate both fighting the societal norms that force him to “wed wealthily” and her to conform and marry as her Father decrees.

The show opens with a swinging dance number showing all of the suitors in the city, and the pretty and seemingly biddable young women they are interested in courting. Unfortunately for the suitors who all want to win the hand of the fair Bianca (Cassia Thompson), her father has decreed that no one can wed Bianca until her older sister Katherine (Deborah Ann Woll) has wed. This leaves Bianca’s suitors Gremio (Jesse J. Perez), Hortensio (John Tufts), and Lucentio (Jude Tibeau) in a dilemma. Luckily, Petruchio (James Udom) comes to town and seems more than happy to take on the challenge of wedding a shrew as long as she has a dowry.

Meanwhile, Bianca is being wooed by her suitors, all of who have been plotting and lying to get to spend time with her. Perez is funny as the self-important Gremio, Tibeau is sweet as the scholarly Lucentio, and Tufts shines not only as a more rock and roll playboy suitor but also in other roles that required some hilarious quick changes throughout the show.

Udom is charming and fun, his Petruchio is just as headstrong and brash as Katherine, though has moments of sweetness and gentleness that is not usually a part of this character. Woll as Katherine is smart, and direct, she suffers and flirts with no fools, which is probably why no one in the town understands her. While she is not thrilled with being forced into marriage, she seems to go into it with some hopefulness, which is quickly dashed when Petruchio arrives at the ceremony late and wearing a matching wedding dress.​

Deborah Ann Woll as Katherine and James Udom as Petruchio, and the cast of TAMING OF THE SHREW photo by Jim Cox.
Deborah Ann Woll as Katherine and James Udom as Petruchio, and the cast of TAMING OF THE SHREW photo by Jim Cox.

Both characters come off as contrarians; neither of them seems to put much stock in the popular opinions or ways of society. They are equals, who challenge and push each other, which ultimately leads to respect and love. That mostly works except that no matter how much the play trims the play into shape like the topiaries that grace the beautiful stage by scenic designer Wilson Chin, there is still a lot of terrible behavior baked into the script to break Kate down.

Standout performances also include Felicity Jones Latta as Tranio, Lucentio’s servant who finds fun and freedom putting on a suit and pretending to be her boss, and Orville Mendoza as Petruchio’s put upon servant Grumio.

The show keeps the pace moving and the tone light and fun with musical interludes, including Bianca and her suitors dancing to ‘Tom, Dick, Or Harry” from the musical KISS ME KATE. The mix of the modern touches and music throughout the show keeps it feeling fun and more modern than other productions you may have seen in the past.

Costume design by Ásta Bennie Hostetter is fun and fanciful, and the production features sound design by Paul Peterson, original music by Paul James Pendergrast, and lighting design by Stephen Strawbridge.

Woll delivers a convincing final speech about love, one that is sincere and not a capitulation but an acknowledgment of an equal. Leaving Katherine and Petruchio as the only truly happy couple on stage when the lights go down.

How to Get Tickets

TAMING OF THE SHREW is playing at the Lowell Davies Festival Theatre at The Old Globe through July 10th . For ticket and show time information go to www.theoldglobe.org

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