Wednesday, April 04, 2012

The Taming of the Shrew

The Taming of the Shrew can be a very funny play -- and probably should be, lest one linger too long on the sexist implications that one either believes are being mocked by Shakespeare or taken to heart -- but Arin Arbus's manic direction for Theatre for a New Audience cannot seem to bear to let well enough alone. Despite having an excellent center in the boisterous -- but ultimately not a buffoon -- Petruchio (Andy Grotelueschen) and his sharp-tongued, iron-jawed would-be-wife Kate (Maggie Siff, who has well-played similar roles on Mad Men and Sons of Anarchy), this production shoots off in a dozen directions at once. Even the program's dramaturgical notes offer only "perspectives" from other scholars, there's no thesis, no backbone.

Petruchio's reverse-psychology and fact-denying wooing are a comic delight, as always, made all the stronger by Groteleuschen's absolute confidence and by Siff's perfect partnering, from gasping double-takes and resolute put-downs to some far-flung spittle and physical comedy. John Keating (who plays Tranio), John Christopher Jones (as old Gremio), and Saxon Palmer (as Hortensio) get in on the more exaggeratedly fun aspects of the wooing, but the rest of the ensemble is a mixed bag, ranging from the diligently expository servant, Biondello (Varin Ayala), to Kate's thanklessly bland father, Baptista (Robert Langdon Lloyd), and simply unbelievable wooers, Lucentio (Denis Butkus) and Kate's sister, Bianca (Kathryn Saffell). You can literally feel the energy draining from the stage when the two leads are absent, which is further evidence that Arbus is not entirely sure what story she aims to communicate with this version of Shrew.

[Read on]


Wendy Caster said...

"far-flung spittle"? Beautiful!

Aaron Riccio said...

It's really quite impressive, the range she gets. I've also never quite heard anybody say "Thank you" with "I'm going to kill you" so clearly being meant.

Wendy Caster said...

It's all about subtext. Which is why I can't act. (One of the many reasons I can't act.)