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Theater Review: "The Taming Of The Shrew"

Kym Pappas and Joel Castellaw
Photo credit:
Adriana Zuniga-Williams

Let’s face it, the forced submission of Kate “the Cursed” to bounty-hunter husband Petruchio in Shakespeare’s “The Taming Of The Shrew” is enough to bring on hives in the modern woman, and even more so when she does that last bit about placing your foot beneath your husband’s hand as a sign of obedience.

But if you can get past that sticky plot point, “Shrew” offers giggles on the order of those to be had in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” fun enough for a summer’s eve.

Innermission Productions offers the latest version, a rollicking romp that adds gender- and time-bending aspects to the already-confusing assumed identities and generally goofy plot.

Remember the old dictum “follow the money?” Our protagonist Petruchio (Steve Froehlich) lives by it, and has come to “wive it wealthily in Padua.” 

So when he finds out that the very rich Baptista (Joel Castellaw) has decreed that his charming younger daughter Bianca (Jamie Channell Guzman) – who has no dearth of suitors – cannot marry until shrewish elder daughter Katherina (Kym Pappas) gets hitched (and whoever marries Kate will be well off), Petruchio volunteers for the shrew-taming job sight unseen.

He gets a bit more than he bargained for – Kate has an extremely sharp tongue and is not about to be buffaloed by this gold-digging turkey – but of course starvation and sleep deprivation can work wonders in the behavior department and it will all work out the way Petruchio wants it to.

Director Carla Nell updates the story with an opening-scene video portraying a bit of women’s history (credit Margo Flitcraft) including suffrage, Rosie the riveter and female athletes along with the traditional family scenes, played while Kate gets dressed.

Costume designer Alanna Serrano contributes some spiffy clothes of the 20th century variety. They look great, but setting this utterly unlikely plot in modern times gave me a bit of cognitive dissonance.

Highlights of the show: Froehlich and Pappas, who make fine adversaries as Petruchio and Kate, and even pretty fine allies.

Jamie Channell Guzman’s Bianca is absolute charmer, and her array of suitors (Kevin Six (Hortensio), Alex Guzman (Lucentio) and a gender-bending Kira Vine as Gremio) are an amusing lot.

Bravo to Nell for managing to put this rather oversized work in the tiny Diversionary Black Box at all, and for succeeding rather nicely despite little help from either Shakespeare or the space. This “Shrew” isn’t perfect, but neither is the source material, and it does offer enough giggles to keep you in your seat (but take a pillow).

The details

“The Taming Of The Shrew” plays through August 27, 2016 at Diversionary Black Box, 4545 Park Boulevard.

Wednesday through Saturday at 7:30 pm

Tickets: www.innermissionproductions.org