by Janeen Russell
One of William Shakespeare’s earliest plays, The Taming of the Shrew, wrapped up production last Sunday. Presented by the UAA’s Department of Theatre and Dance at their Mainstage Theatre and directed by Dr. David Edgecombe, this lively adaptation is a lighthearted and memorable romp with the battle of the sexes.
Set in the small Italian town of Padua in the 1930’s, the wealthy Minola Baptista is suddenly inundated with a number of suitors for his lovely daughter, Bianca. However, no one wants to marry her elder sister, Katherine, who is known for her sharp tongue, ill temper, and violent ways. Much to Bianca’s and her suitor’s dismay, Baptista announces that he will not allow her to marry until Katherine, the shrew, is wed. Just when all hope is almost lost, in rides the young and handsome Petruchio. Like a prize fighter primed for a fight, when he hears of Katherine and her enormous dowry, he proclaims that he will not only marry the shrew, he will tame her!
Perfectly casted with a fiery chemistry between them, Kate and Petruchio proceed to do battle. And the battle is not only verbal, it is a well-choreographed physical one too. With Kate throwing pots here and there on the very small and intimate Mainstage theatre however, it is a wonder that someone in the audience doesn’t end up with one their head. Even with little room to move, the slapstick comedy never looks silly.
Alyssa Barnes plays a colorful and animated Kate, turning rage into an ardent passion for her new husband, kicking and screaming all the way. It is pure fun to watch her. Eric Holzchuh, playing Petruchio, brings a masculine bravado that is never cruel; he makes us gleefully cheer for him in the end. Bianca, played by the pretty Kitty Mahoney, brings a gentle humor that is just right, and Kordel Thompson, playing her father makes a commanding presence. Justin Stewart never runs out of energy, giving a very amusing performance as Petruchio’s married servant. The rest of the cast is wonderful, with a final nod to David Chapa, making a cocky and comical Tranio memorable.
Many viewers will ask: Is this taming or is it shaming? In this adaptation of Shakespeare’s work, Kate seems more than able to hold her own in any verbal match with her husband. She is indeed his intellectual equal. She never appears to be a victim. The lovers seem to have come to some private compromise where each is getting exactly what they want. No victims here. Nonetheless, the play is sure to ruffle a few feathers in the Women’s Studies department, but who cares? UAA’s “shrew” is a refreshing respite from the politically-correct and gender-neutral sensitivities that we are burdened with on campus today.