Wow, am I ever falling behind. I saw this last show, like, YEARS ago (okay, Friday) and I’m only just now getting around to writing about it. Sorry, gang…I think I’m feeling a little blogged out lately. Either that or I’m a lazy little shit, but let’s try and think positive, hey?
At any rate, last Friday I caught the premiere of Bear and Company’s very first Gladstone Theatre production, Billy Shakespeare’s THE TAMING OF THE SHREW, just in time for his birthday. Now, Bear and Co. (and show director Eleanor Crowder) know them some Shakespeare, so I was fairly sure I was in for a good time with this’un. And I’d never even seen SHREW before, so it was a bit of a Shakespeare newbie for me, always fun. The action got started right out in the lobby, as the all-male cast (yes, folks, men in drag for this production…a cheap gag, admittedly, but it still works) rattled off a tune or two on the Gladstone Piano, and maybe caused a little trouble among the crowd. This was a nice touch, and not entirely unexpected…Crowder seems to enjoy treating the stage as more of a suggestion than anything else, and once the show got underway there was still plenty of action in the aisles and wings to enjoy.
The story centers around Baptista (Brie Barker), an English businessman seeking to marry off his two lovely daughters. There’s a catch, though…he won’t allow his younger, sweet’n’sexy daughter Bianca (Chris Bedford) get hitched until his eldest Kate (Nicholas Amott), a willful, harsh-tongued gal who strikes fear into the hearts of men, finds her match first. This is troubling news for would be suitors Gremio and Hortensio (Jim Murchison and Guy Buller), as well as posh Lucentio and his manservant Tranio (Scott Humphreys and Tim Oberholzer). That is, until even more willful gold-digger Petruchio (Company of Fools’ Scott Florence) arrives, determined to make Kate his whatever it takes. A few wacky misadventures ensue (including Lucentio and Tranio switching identities for reasons I can no longer really recall), plenty of rousing musical segues courtesy of Bear’s musical director Rachel Eugster, and a stage full of entertaining performances. Always a delight to see my old acting Coach Brie Barker in a show, and he was terrific and likeable as patriarch Baptista (and a smaller role as dimwitted manservant Curtis). Nick Amott made a very outstanding Kate indeed, more than keeping his own in several notable clashes with Scott Florence’s Petruchio. Everyone made a good show of it, and helped this to be a hugely fun and enjoyable production.
Now, as for the PLAY…holy shit. As I said, I’d never seen SHREW before, and had always just sort of assumed there would be some kind of hilarious feminist come-uppance at the finale. But no, it would appear this script got written shortly after Billy Shakes had the worst break-up of his life, because this play hates women in a way you will likely (hopefully) never be able to understand. It’s a bit of a mystery to me why we’re still celebrating it the way we do, and I’m not sure if it’s a good or bad thing that this is the show Bear and Co. decided to go with the all-male cast on. I’ll leave that to wiser heads than mine to figure out, and just reiterate that this is a terrifically fun and well-done production (of an astoundingly misogynistic play). And there ARE an abundance of laughs in this one, folks, and maybe that’s the best thing to do with a tale like SHREW…laugh at it. Peace, love and soul,
Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)