Corrections or additions?
This reveiw by Jack Florek was prepared for the August 16, 2000
edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Review: `Taming of the Shrew’
Sometimes misogyny is found in the eye of the beholder.
Princeton Rep’s Shakespeare Festival winds up its sixth summer with
an original yet respectful rendition of "The Taming of the
arguably the Bard’s most controversial work. Feminist critics and
playgoers alike have pointed to Shakespeare’s romantic comedy as a
prime example of innate male misogyny. ("All men are brutes, even
This is due in part to Katherine’s remarkable closing speech about
a woman’s need to be properly submissive to the whims of her
Such duty as the subject owes the prince,
Even such a woman oweth to her husband.
And when she is forward, pee- vish, sullen, sour,
And not obedient to his honest will,
What is she but a foul contend- ing rebel
And graceless traitor to her loving lord?
on Comedy Central’s "Man Show." Is this Shakespeare’s personal
attitude to the gender question? Or is there, as this production
demonstrates, irony at work?
Originally written in the 1590s, Princeton Rep director Victoria
has updated her Shakespeare to Italy in the late 1970s, the
Age of Travolta. The swaggering Petruchio (Donald Kimmel), decked
out in a lemon-yellow suit, and possessing all the charm of a used
car salesman, attempts to woo and wed Katherine (Missy Thomas), the
incorrigible eldest daughter of Baptista. Petruchio’s plan is to
Kate to a barrage of verbal and physical indignities, under the guise
of kindness, with the ultimate goal of breaking her will, like a
breaks a horse.
Despite superb resistance, Kate is eventually willing to swear that
the sun is the moon and that a doddering old man is a beautiful young
woman, if Petruchio says so.
Bianca (Julie Lund), Katherine’s lusty younger sister, must wait her
turn in the marriage order, despite being pursued by a slew of wealthy
suitors led by Lucentio (Adin Alai), Hortensio (Erik Sherr), and
(Richard Bourg). This doesn’t stop her from seizing some of the finer
fruits of marriage, as evidenced by the package of birth control pills
she tucks into her purse.
Liberatori’s lively direction of this old story has all the
of a Loony Tune, making even simple entrances occasions for adventure.
Characters arrive on motorbikes and motor scooters, burst through
doorways, play soccer, dance, sing, jiggle, and strut. Once onstage,
the onslaught continues, as nobody seems capable of standing still
for more than a moment. At one point there is actually a three-way
juggling act at center stage.
Missy Thomas’s strong performance as Katherine is the key to the
and redemptive message of this production. She plays her Kate with
a subtle dignity and emotional depth — along with a fine sense
of comedy — that assures the audience that she would never consent
to become anybody’s victim.
As her lover and adversary Petruchio, Donald Kimmel also has delicate
duty and plays his part exceptionally well. He carries with him an
air of likability, never allowing his character to fall into loutish
behavior. Together they create an onstage chemistry that sizzles with
sexual energy and reminds us, once again, why people still bother
to fall in love.
Julie Lund is sufficiently bubble-headed as the sex-obsessed Bianca,
a teeny-bopper infatuated with her "Saturday Night Fever"
album and more than a little aware of her hormonal effects on men.
Adin Alai is hunky as Bianca’s love interest, Lucentio. And Erik Sherr
is particularly hilarious as her would-be suitor, Hortensio, playing
him with the goofy, screwed-too-tight intensity of the Atlanta Braves
pitcher John Rocker. Karen Traynor, as the servant Biondello, plays
her role as a kind of female Daffy Duck, hepped up on milkshakes
Costumes by Marianne Powell-Parker are beautiful without being
She has the eye of a painter, using muted harlequin colors to attract
and direct the eye (a yellow cap there, a scarlet scarf here, a
dress over there). Galt MacDermot’s music, written especially for
this production, is equally understated, successfully complementing
the general theatricality of the onstage goings on.
Outdoor Shakespeare is always a risk, with the threat of rain foremost
this year. (Last week’s storm wreaked $10,000-worth of tent damage
and nearly shut the production down; donations are being accepted.)
There are also honking geese, crickets that sound like a distant buzz
saw, and the occasional woo-woo-woo of Princeton’s finest.
So is "The Taming of the Shrew" an exercise in misogyny? Does
Petruchio break Katherine’s spirit like a horse? Or is Katherine and
Petruchio’s meeting, rather, a case of love at first sight ( a
favorite) of two complicated and independent-minded people?
Princeton Rep brings a fresh, sexy, and intelligent edge to all these
— Jack Florek
Festival , Pettoranello Gardens, Mountain Avenue & Route 206,
Two Thursday performances have been added to the show that will play
Thursday through Sunday, at 7 p.m. (weather permitting), through
27. Free, but $10 donation requested.
Tickets are distributed at Fleet Financial Solutions Center, 16 Nassau
Street, from Monday to Friday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday
from 9 a.m. to noon.
Tickets are also available at Pettoranello Gardens on the evening
of the performance. Website: www.princetonrep.org.
Corrections or additions?
This page is published by PrincetonInfo.com
— the web site for U.S. 1 Newspaper in Princeton, New Jersey.