Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Review: (Toronto) Taming of the Shrew

Sophie Goulet and Kevin MacDonald (photo by David Hou)

Hot Balls 
by Winna Tse

How ballsy. That was my first thought after seeing The Taming of the Shrew (henceforth The Shrew) in High Park this year. It takes tremendous skill to pull off this contemporary adaptation of one of Shakespeare’s most beloved plays. Brought to us by Canadian Stage Production and the Department of Theatre at the Faculty of Fines Arts, York University, director Ted Witzel's refreshing rendition stays quite true to its original form. 

Though framed as a comedy, The Shrew is much more.

In short, The Shrew is about the courtship of Petruchio (Kevin MacDonald) and Katerina (Sophie Goulet), the “shrew”, as others vie for the affections of her younger and more desirable sister Bianca. Though framed as a comedy, The Shrew is much more. Beneath all the comical rough housing, wit and charm lie the satiric undertones of society’s twisted expectations of women, past and/or present. Ironically, the whole misogynistic theme is turned on its head with a major character change in the role of Lucentio. I’ll leave you to figure out how that is. 

Although controversial, the comedic value is never lost. One of my favourite lines is by none other than the bastardly Petruchio, “What, with my tongue in your tail? nay, come again, Good Kate; I am a gentleman.”  This nicely sums up the overall tone of the play. The physical comedy is well choreographed and the subtle nuances of each scene are expressed so vividly in their facial expressions and body language. Some of my favourite moments are when the actors do not speak, when they let the awkward pauses resonate with audience. 

The pacing is spot on – especially during the transitions as actors scurry across the entire Lindsay C. Walker set, moving and placing objects as the music blares. Never have I seen a set used so effectively; it was as if it was another character unto itself. I must give huge props to all the talented, ferocious (in a good way) and dedicated actors. Despite the wretched Toronto heat, they all deliver an enthusiastic and energizing performance that truly engages the audience. 

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