Friday, May 27, 2016

The Taming of the Shrew Theatre Review

The cast of STC’s production of The Taming of the Shrew (Photo: Scott Suchman

10 Things I Love About You Shrew
by Haylee Grey Pearson (Contributing Editor)

Who would have thought Shakespeare (yes, the one from your high school lit class) could become more provocative, bombastic, and imaginative? Evidently director Ed Sylvanus Iskandar did, when he took the classic Shakespearean comedy of The Taming of the Shrew and put his own spin on it. Much like any extra toppings on an already delicious burger, some additions enhanced the spice to the familiar flavor, and some additions had us thinking maybe not.

In true Shakespearean form, Iskandar brings the theatre to the streets, having every patron and pedestrian greeted by fully dressed characters playing the piano and belting out original songs. From the moment you arrive, the performance has begun!

Oliver Thornton stars in The Taming of the Shrew (Photo: Scott Suchman)

Eloquent soliloquies dressed in metaphors accompany tumultuous relationships between lovers in The Taming of the Shrew. There have been a number of recreations and adaptations (cough... 10 Things I Hate About You... cough.) Most of these adaptations follow the outlining plot that the beautiful, flawless Bianca (Oliver Thornton) cannot marry, until her shrew of a sister, Katarina (Maulik Pancholy) gets married. But who could marry such a heinous bi*ch/chore of a woman other than Petruchio (Peter Gadiot) who uses reverse psychology (LOL, seriously) until she becomes a tame, obedient wife. Dare I say rom-coms were a little different, back in the day?

Question: Does an already rich plot with lively characters and a timeless, if not debatable, controversial scenario really need anymore? Yes, absolutely. Iskandar’s imagination abandoned all limits as he bridged the past with the present. An all-male cast dominated the stage, a tradition often lost in today’s adaptations, but was the way Queen Elizabeth herself saw it!

To add more spice, there's a 30-minute musical weaved throughout the play. I assume for those who don’t fully understand Early Modern English? Perhaps too much spice. The performers are actors in truest form, not tenors. Adding musical numbers to the play seems confusing, almost forced. A strike of the bass is a sudden switch of gears, that ultimately stalls out the scene. While I do appreciate the dichotomy of what Iskandar is striving to do, it retracts from the ebb and flow of an already exceptional performance.

To those who can’t understand Shakespeare, are envious of drag, or dislike theatre, there is no denying the high level of energy and talent in this production. Breaking the fourth extends to the point where the audience becomes a character... sometimes as a cheerful instigator or as a validating humor.

You don’t have to understand or even like Shakespeare to enjoy this performance. Cheers to the Shakespeare Theatre Company, the cast, crew, and Mr. Ed Sylvanus Iskandar for such a rich performance!

The Taming of the Shrew runs at the Shakespeare Theatre now until June 26th, 2016, with a runtime of approximately 3 hours (including one 30-minute intermission.) Click here to purchase tickets.

Grade: A-