Augustus Truhn and Karyn Casi in the Colorado Shakespeare Festival's production of "The Taming of the Shrew." [Photo by Casey A. Cass/Courtesy CU Communications]
Eeeeeeey! Se volere ridi spesso? You want some laughs, paisan? Whaddayou, pazzi? The Festival, she got “Taming of the Shrew” for you, di niente! With a heaping side of prosciutto!
The Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s production of “The Taming of the Shrew” dives into the shtick headfirst, unashamed to go for all the laughs they can in a rollicking, fast-paced outing that’s embroidered with improvisations and gags that routinely break the fourth wall. The result is a lot of fun.
Stephanie Shine’s direction resembles the work of an animal trainer in the circus – she prods the cavorting beasts about, and mainly lets them alone. This is not a bad choice to make with “Shrew” – it’s an old plot, and was even back in Shakespeare’s time. It begs to be riffed on and expanded by the inventions of the players.
The bare-bones design is well-suited to the commedia
arte approach – people whisk themselves off and on, pausing only to turn to the audience for comments, and occasionally hit them up for hugs, food, and money. The soundtrack is a mélange of hits from “Goodfellas”/Guido tradition – lots of Louis Prima, Rosemary Clooney, “Santa Lucia” and other such tunes familiar to habitués of restaurants lit by candles stuck in Chianti bottles. del
The entire cast has a ball and communicates same to the audience. Augustus Truhn is a rough and ready Petruchio, and Karyn Casi makes a sufficiently bitchy Kate. The politically incorrect plot of the man who subdues rather than woos an upstart woman has been handled in myriad ways in production history. Some have indicted the misogynistic premise by showing Petruchio brutalizing his bride Kate; others have twisted the narrative around so that Kate pities her bullying swain.
Here all is excused under the spell of love at first sight, even if both parties deny it until the end. When Kate, driven by sleeplessness and hunger, finally agrees to gainsay whatever her husband says, it’s delivered as though she finally consents to pretend to be in on the joke of male dominance. It works.
Standouts in the ensemble include Geoffrey Kent’s cunning servant Grumio, who nearly steals the show. (Karen Slack’s performance of the Widow, written as a miniscule part, is parlayed by her performance into a large and integral part of the goings-on.) Jamie Ann Romero makes a madcap Curtis, Bob Buckley is perfectly pantaloonish as Baptista, and Beethovan Oden’s Tranio is rubber-faced and audacious.
Of special note is the work of CSF Producing Artistic Director Philip Sneed, who plays the sour suitor Gremio with whiny flair. It’s a pleasure to see the Festival boss add so much to a show! Plus, those white leather pants . . . oh my goodness. Truly, Sneed isn’t afraid to portray middle-aged crazy for the sake of the team.
The Colorado Shakespeare Festival's production of "The Taming of the Shrew" continues through Aug. 6 in the Mary Rippon Outdoor Theater on the CU-Boulder campus. For tickets and information, please call 303-492-0554 or visit www.coloradoshakes.org.