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THE TAMING OF THE SHREW presented by Cincinnati Shakespeare Company through April 25. Click here for more information on the production. I attended the opening night performance.
I’ve probably said it before, but large-cast productions, like this, really showcase the depth of talent in the CSC ensemble. No matter the size of the role, every actor on stage is committed to not only their character, but their relationships to every other character on stage.
Guest director Kevin Hammond offers a more-balanced take on the script. In this production, Petruchio is not bending Katherina to his will. Instead he is chipping-away (well, make that hammering-away) at the barriers “the shrew” has put around herself to protect her heart.
Nicholas Rose is excellent as Katherina’s (Kate’s) suitor, Petruchio. It is easy to see his attraction to the kindred spirit he sees in her. Even though the character goes to such lengths as denying Kate food and sleep, his soliloquy in Act II clearly shows his affection for Kate. Rose believably makes Petruchio’s actions come off as more playful and lovingly-intentioned than mean-spirited. Also to soften these tactics a bit, Petruchio suffers through them right along with her.
Also strong is Kelly Mengelkoch as Kate. Her shrew-ness is presented as an almost knee-jerk reaction to any man or any notion that she needs a man to complete her. Her temperament seems to indicate that she had been deeply hurt in the past and refuses to allow it to happen again. Add in a bit of stubbornness and it’s understandable why Petruchio had to go to such lengths to break through.
There is a great “a-ha” moment when Kate finally realizes that Petruchio does not want her as a subordinate, but an equal partner in life. The results of this trust and understanding shines through in the satisfying final scene.
The “battle” for the hand of Kate’s sister also plays out amusingly-well. Bianca (Caitlin McWethy) is woo-ed by disguised suitors Hortensio (Billy Chace) and Lucentio (Geoffrey Barnes). The latter with an assist from his flamboyant main servant Tranio (Justin McCombs).
Speaking of main servants, Jeremy Dubin is stellar fun as Gromio, partner in crime to Petruchio. Dubin’s ongoing bit was a guilty-pleasure. My inner child laughed every time, even though I knew it was coming.
Turning the set, I found it really clever for Andrew Hungerford to have the “inn” wrap around to stage-left and out of sight. It reinforced that concept of a play being performed by a traveling band of players. It also allowed for quick scene changes as pieces were moved from another part of the inn to the main playing area.
Overall, an excellent, fun, broad and bawdy battle of wills where the audience wins.
My rating: 4.5 out of 5
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