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''Taming of the Shrew''
''The Taming of the Shrew''
Produced by Propeller
Directed by Edward Hall
BAM Harvey Theater
651 Fulton St. between Ashland and Rockwell places
March 17-18, 24-25, 31 & April 1, 2:30 p.m., March 20, 22, 27 & 29, 7:30 p.m.
$25, $40, $55, $65 (718) 636-4100 or www.bam.org
Reviewed by Paulanne Simmons March 18, 2007
Along with ''The Merchant of Venice,'' ''The Taming of the Shrew'' with its message of feminine submission, is probably William Shakespeare's most politically incorrect play. Modern directors can either present the play at face value and risk the wrath of modern audiences or employ a variety of techniques to mitigate the message.
A scene from the Watermill Theatre (UK) and The Old Vic by Propeller production of William Shakespeare's "The Taming of the Shrew." Photo by Jack Vartoogian.
Edward Hall, whose all-male company, Propeller, has brought its version of ''The Taming of the Shrew'' to BAM's Harvey Theater, turns the comedy into a fantastical burlesque that stresses the comedy but takes the punch out of the more problematic elements.
Both of Baptista's daughters, the demure Bianca and the rebellious and rambunctious Katherine, are played by men, Jon Trenchard and Simon Scardifield respectively. Thus the original meaning of the play is undermined by the audience's knowledge that neither Bianca nor Katherine is what they are pretending to be. As for Petruchio (Dugald Bruce-Lockhart), his strut and swagger is now an attempt to dominate not a vulnerable woman but a man in drag.
Hall fills his stage with music and merriment as Bianca is wooed by disguised suitors and Katherine battles the overbearing and ridiculous Petruchio. Much of the fun, however, is only tangentially related to what is actually happening.
The costumes are equally eclectic and colorful: Petruchio comes to his wedding in thong underwear and a fringed leather jacket, and cavorts among men dressed in tuxes and tails. Other characters sport Italian renaissance dress.
Joe Flynn (far left) as "Curtis, Petruchio's servant," and the servant chorus in a scene from the Watermill Theatre (UK) and The Old Vic by Propeller production of William Shakespeare's "The Taming of the Shrew" Photo by Jack Vartoogian.
If ''The Taming of the Shrew'' is one of Shakespeare's more physical plays, Hall takes that physicality to the limit with knock-down-drag-out fights performed by actors with considerable gymnastic prowess. It's not always clear who is going to win.
Thus Hall not only tames the Shrew, he tames the show. But if there is little here to offend an audience, there is also little here to make anyone think. What happens in a family when one daughter is favored over the other? What should men look for in wives? What part does submission play in love? None of these questions is asked or answered.
Like a three-ring circus, there's so much happening in ''The Taming of the Shrew'' it's sometimes difficult to follow the plot. This is all the more difficult because Hall has paid less attention to diction than choreography. As a result, much of the dialogue is only comprehensible to the cognoscenti, which, one suspects, is not exactly what Shakespeare ever had in mind.
In the end what's lost in this ''Taming of the Shrew'' is the playwright himself. As entertaining as it is, this production has about as much to do with Shakespeare as the current royal family has to do with Queen Elizabeth… the first.
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