In a time when the notion of “taming” a wife’s will to make her subservient to her husband is highly problematic, what to do with “The Taming of the Shrew”?
One choice is to subvert the misogyny of Shakespeare’s Punch-and-Judy comedy by underscoring its ironies, and slyly giving Kate (rather than her domineering mate Petruchio) the upper hand.
The alternative is to go with the flow, and party up the me-Tarzan message with the high theatrics and bumpkin slapstick the text allows for.
Seattle Shakespeare Company grabs the latter option in its crowd-pleasing production, which began as an outdoor Wooden O park show and has been revived for a run at the former Intiman Theatre.
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Once again, director Aimee Bruneau’s staging cannily turns Padua into a trailer park full of rollicking rubes, played by much the same cast as the earlier edition.
Kate’s rich daddy is portrayed here as an aging glam mama (terrific Karen Jo Fairbrook, tottering in high heels and skintight apparel). Kate’s beauteous li’l sis Bianca (Brenda Joyner) is a baton-twirling prom queen.
Petruchio (David Quicksall), the fortune hunter who aims to tame Kate, comes on like a lanky, weathered rodeo rat. And his bumbling, puff-chested sidekick Grumio (David S. Hogan) isn’t the brightest light on the porch, to say the least.
The initially reluctant Kate is played to perfection by Kelly Kitchens, first as a hissing, motorcycle-riding hellion, then transformed into a smolderingly sexy but obedient wife. How? By being starved, held captive, denied sleep and just about everything else that violates the Geneva Conventions.
Craig Wollam’s trailer-trash set featuring a pair of battered RV’s sets the scene for a load of sight gags. Bruneau has stuffed the show with so much clever comic business, and her cast has such gung-ho fun with good ol’ redneck stereotypes, that one can (almost) suspend moral judgment to get into the rowdy spirit of things.
Actually it can be rowdy to a fault: the show runs long, and milks some of its more outrageous bits dry.
What truly sustains this “Shrew,” and makes Kate’s capitulation to Petruchio sort of tolerable, is the erotic sizzle between Quicksall and Kitchens. They’ve got it, and they flaunt it.
Misha Berson: firstname.lastname@example.org