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This article by Joan Crespi was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on
July 19, 2000. All rights reserved.
A `Shrew’ To Be Tamed
If "The Taming of the Shrew," Princeton Rep’s
second free Shakespeare production this summer, is as much fun as
the first, the company can claim back-to-back successes. We’ll see.
Princeton Rep’s production of "A Midsummer Night’s Dream,"
a broad, bawdy, vigorous interpretation playing through July 23, is
so good it’s literally a hard act to follow. "Taming of the
begins its four-weekend run on Friday, August 3, at Pettoranello
in Princeton’s Community Park North, playing Friday through Sundays,
through August 27.
Victoria Liberatori, artistic director of Princeton Rep, is directing
"Shrew." Or rather, she’s taming this "The Taming of the
Shrew," a complex comedy. She chose to do "Shrew," she
says, because it’s one of the most popular of Shakespeare’s plays
(the musical version, "Kiss Me, Kate," is currently a hit
revival on Broadway). She began the play’s three-week rehearsal period
last week in a large room, white walled and white ceilinged, in the
New York Art Academy in Manhattan. The room usually has nude models,
Anne Reiss, Princeton Rep’s executive producer, tells us. Large
easels are stored at one side, their caramel-colored wood matching
the wood of the room’s columns and ceiling beams. The last 10 days
of rehearsals will take place in Princeton.
When we dropped in briefly on an early rehearsal, Liberatori was
Kate (Missy Thomas) and Petruchio (Donald Kimmel) in a portion of
their first exchange. One of the things that struck us at this early
stage was how well, even with scripts in hand, these professional
actors knew their lines. And they were moving about the stage —
movement with the speeches seemed to come to them as naturally as
speaking. "Concentrate on the words today," Liberatori
"Don’t worry too much about the physical stuff. We’ll worry about
the action and blocking later."
"They have this intense verbal joust, which Kate thinks she
Liberatori tells the two actors after another run through. And after
another she instructs Kate, "Walk toward him to speak, then walk
away." The thrust and parry was like a verbal fencing match. To
Petruchio she says, "Right now you’re attracted to her physically,
but you also see dollar signs." And after another, "When she
hits you, let that really affect you."
On this first day of rehearsals all was not set in stone. From the
time we viewed the rehearsal in the late afternoon until we
Liberatori by phone that night, the setting became firm. In the
Liberatori said the production might be set in Italy (like the
if they could get a gondola for Petruchio’s arrival. (Pettoranello
Gardens has a small lake.) By 9:30 p.m. the place was firm: Italy
— gondola or no.
Liberatori is updating the production, setting the time in the late
1970s. One reason for her choice of the ’70s is that Princeton Rep
has Galt MacDermot to compose the incidental music. (MacDermot is
the composer of "Hair" and "Two Gentlemen of Verona."
His music defined theatrical music for an era, she says, and was
influential in hip-hop.) Design is another reason. "Males dressed
as elaborately as women then. It gives us freedom to explore the look
of the show."
Yet another reason, she points out, was that this was the time of
a worldwide feminist movement, which eventually spread to Italy, but
which was not as pronounced in Italy as in the United States. "It
would be difficult to have a female character like Kate set in America
of the 1970s," she says. "Whereas Kate, as an Italian, would
be from a good Catholic and conservative, upper-class family, and
would be less a rebel (although she is one) than an American woman
of the time." Also, the ’70s was a time of great contrast, she
says, citing the conservative contingent and the aftermath of the
hippie era. "Taming of the Shrew," she adds, "is about
How does Liberatori see this play? "Petruchio is
as much a shrew as Kate is in this play," she says. "Both
of them have to grow into an understanding of what it means to have
a relationship with another person, and that means compromise and
accommodation. And he does that as well as she does. In the play they
both go on a journey together, and Petruchio discovers a partner in
life worth loving and worth investing his time in. Just as Kate learns
about herself, Petruchio learns about himself."
"These are two people who would probably never get married if
they hadn’t met each other," she continues. "Each requires
someone who is equal in intelligence and intensity. Neither one has
been able to establish intimacy with another human being. Both are
outside society; both are, in a sense, orphans. Petruchio’s father
is dead, and Kate’s family and those around her are against her."
What does Petruchio get out of the match, besides money? "The
same thing Kate gets out of it," she says and quotes Petruchio:
"Peace it bodes, and love, and quiet life." "Though
motive at the beginning is dollar signs," she acknowledges, "I
think he slowly falls in love with her."
Both the main and the subplot are set out, or at least hinted at,
in Baptista’s first speech to his daughter Bianca’s two suitors,
and the aging Gremio. Baptista, played by Tim Boisbert, is the wealthy
father of two daughters, the elder daughter, the shrewish Katherina
(Missy Thomas), and sweet and modest Bianca (Cori-Lynn Campbell).
Baptista steadfastly refuses to let Bianca be married, or even wooed,
until her older sister has a husband. Watching the scene, Lucentio
falls instantly in love with the sweet, mild, and acquiescent Bianca,
so now she has three would-be suitors. Katherina has none.
Until Petruchio arrives to visit his friend Hortensio, but also
wive it wealthily in Padua." Although both Hortensio and Gremio
are eager to marry off Katherina so they can court Bianca, they warn
Petruchio of Katherina’s scolding tongue. He dismisses that, declaring
that "be she old, foul, curst, or shrewd," that’s no deterrent
if she’s rich enough.
The subplot concerns Bianca’s suitors and their ruses to court the
cloistered girl. Hortensio poses as a musician, Lucentio as a scholar
who exchanges identities with his servant Tranio (James Rana).
promises Gremio to represent him to Bianca, but it’s his own suit
he’ll present. Figure in disguises, schemes, lies, deceits, and
the appearance of Lucentio’s true father, Vincentio, to accuse the
false one, the Pedant, himself duped by lies, of usurping his
All this, which provides some good comedy, is interwoven with the
hugely comic and saucy Katherina-Petruchio story.
Main plot and subplot interwoven, the story turns back to the main
plot. Katherina argues with and strikes Bianca, then berates her
Petruchio demands of Baptista what dowry Kate will have if she is
his wife. The two make a contract, but Baptista insists that first
Petruchio must obtain Kate’s love and gives him permission to woo
When Kate breaks the lute over the would-be musician Hortensio’s head,
Petruchio declares, "It is a lusty wench! I love her 10 times
more." Petruchio, vowing to call Kate the opposite of whatever
she does, praises her mildness to her face and straightaway asks her
to be his wife. After caustic, witty repartee, Kate strikes him.
calls her "pleasant, courteous," parrying all her verbal
To Baptista, her father, Kate calls Petruchio "half lunatic."
Petruchio to Baptista calls Kate "modest as the dove . . .
and lies that they have agreed, that Kate loves him, and he sets the
wedding date for Sunday. Kate says she’ll see him hanged first, but
Baptista readily seals the match, and Petruchio sets off to buy
apparel, so he says.
But it’s not until Act III, Scene 2, the wedding day,
that Petruchio abandons his gracious blandishments and changes his
tactics altogether. Here what we think of as "The Taming of the
Shrew" truly begins. The priest and Katherina are ready at the
ceremony, but Petruchio keeps her waiting, to great embarrassment.
When he does appear, he’s crazily dressed; so is his footboy. Married,
he becomes a devil, a fiend. Petruchio won’t stay for the wedding
dinner but leaves and takes an angry and resisting Kate with him,
asserting, "I will be master of what is mine own. She is my goods,
my chattels; she is my house."
On his way home, it’s related, Kate’s horse stumbled, fell on her,
and she fell in the muck. Petruchio beat his page, Grumio, for letting
it happen, while Katherina prayed and pleaded for him. At home
strikes his servants, denies Kate meat, complaining that it’s burnt;
Kate pleads in vain to have it. In bed, he rails and brawls, and won’t
let her sleep.
Back in Padua, Hortensio sees Bianca and Lucentio kissing and gives
up Bianca, resolving instead to marry a wealthy widow. A wandering
Pedant is persuaded by a lie to impersonate Lucentio’s father,
This false Vincentio promises Baptista that his son Lucentio, now
dressed as Tranio, will have a sufficient dowry and the match is made
between Bianca and Lucentio.
Back to the main plot: With Kate starved and giddy for lack of sleep,
Petruchio gives her meat and forces her to thank him. He resolves
to return to her father’s house, but rejects the cap and the gown
a tailor has made for her. More, he will not be crossed; she must
say it is whatever time he says it is. Katherina and Petruchio travel
to her father’s house, and Petruchio instructs her to say the sun
is the moon and the moon is the sun. Otherwise he threatens to go
back home. On the road the main and sub-plots merge as Kate and
meet the true Vincentio. He’s an old man, but, at Petruchio’s
Kate greets him as "young, budding virgin." They show him
to Lucentio’s house, where this true Vincentio argues with the Pedant
posing as Vincentio. The ruses unravel; Lucentio, now married to
acknowledges his true father, and all is made right. But the play
is not finished.
The actors come with long lists of credits, both New York and
and many have movie, television, and commercial credits, as well as
previous productions of several Shakespeare plays. The include Donald
Kimmel as Petruchio, Missy Thomas as Kate, and Cori-Lynn Campbell
as Bianca. Erik Sherr, as Hortensio, is a member of the resident
company of the Elizabethan Shakespeare Company in Hoboken. Joe Narciso
plays Grumio, Josh Blumenfeld, who performed in Princeton Rep’s
Night" last year, takes on four minor roles.
Also featured are two actors from this year’s "A Midsummer Night’s
Dream:" James Rana plays Tranio and Princeton resident Karen
who plays the spunky Hermia in "Dream," plays Lucentio’s
Biondella. Princeton resident Fern-Marie Aames is the stage manager.
The play ends with the banquet in Lucentio’s house and the famous
contest. Hortensio, Lucentio, and Petruchio, each newly married, each
wager 100 crowns that his wife is the most obedient and will be the
first to come when sent for. Lucentio’s Bianca, then Hortensio’s
each refuses to come. It is Petruchio’s wife, Kate, who comes, then
goes out and returns with Bianca and the Widow, and (in a speech that,
Liberatori suggests, might be a set-up between Petruchio and Kate
to show the others) Kate lectures them:
women. . .
are bound to serve, love, and obey…
Then place your hands below your husband’s foot.
us she has some none-traditional ideas for how this speech will be
delivered. Again, we’ll see.
— Joan Crespi
Festival , Pettoranello Gardens, Mountain Avenue & Route 206,
Shakespeare’s quintessential comedy of gender warfare. Fridays
through Sundays, through August 27. Free, $10 donation suggested.
Friday, August 4, 7 p.m.
Free tickets are distributed at Fleet Financial, 16 Nassau Street,
from Monday to Friday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday from 9
a.m. to noon. Tickets also at Pettoranello Gardens the evening of
the performance. Website: www.princetonrep.org.
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