Yesterday Alexx and I went to the production of "The Taming of the Shrew" being put on by the Actors Shakespeare Project http://www.actorsshakespeareproject.org/
in the basement theatre of Harvard's Garage. Talk about liminal spaces--even for Boston, this is a strange marginal space--seriously, make certain that you don't need to use a bathroom anytime soon.
I think this was the most enjoyable production of the Shrew that I have ever seen live. It was tumultuous, manic, and yet, for once, I got the feeling that Petruchio's heart went deeper than the depth of his purse.
You have to understand: when the question of which Shakespeare character do you identify with comes up, as it is wont to do in the sort of geeky circles in which I swim, there has never been a doubt in my mind--I am so Kate (but without so much throwing, which is good, because I throw like a blind girl).
As I grow older, however, it has become more and more difficult for me to feel that Petruchio deserves Kate. Most portrayals of the character are pretty shallow, and make him seem more like a used car salesman than a man who really cares about the woman for whom he has bargained. And then there is that final speech of Kate's in the last act--what can you do with that?
This production took on some of those problematical issues, along with the equally problematical Induction scene, and made them work.
When I say that this production is manic and tumultuous, I mean it. Fast-paced with fast costume changes and occasional spoken Cliff notes for the confused Christopher Sly, not to mention the swinging from the rafters, make this one of the most physical productions I've ever witnessed. Also, I have a new appreciation of the stage direction [exeunt, screaming].
Yet, as Alexx pointed out, the players do not go for all the sex jokes. This was an interesting decision as not only did it open up the possibilities of going for unexpected humorous bits, but it made me consider how many of those sex jokes serve to underscore the fact that Kate's worth in the eyes of the males of the story lies only in her being female and thus "made to bear." (men and babies, that is).
A lot of the changed dynamic, I felt, came from Benjamin Evett, who played Christopher Sly and Petruchio. He really uses his voice to give a full range of emotions--something that is given a lot of lip service in acting but is not as often followed through upon--and when he is being honest with Kate you know it. Really, Evett was the sexiest Petruchio I've heard, and the bits he sang from the musical "Kiss Me Kate" didn't hurt, either.
Sarah Newhouse was an awesome Kate, obviously both funny and smart and half-crazy from having to deal with these ...men. I forgot to ask if she was a redhead, but she sounded like a redhead.
Agreed, there is still that final speech of Kate's, what can you do with it? but Newhouse delivered it well, and the final few minutes of the play show that Petruchio as well as Kate have managed to pull one over on the rest of the crowd, suggesting that their various performances were both transformative as well as tricksey, and you know how I love those tricksters.
I would definitely go see this production again and I would recommend it as a fast and funny production full of surprises.