The Taming Of The Shrew
By IRENE BACKALENICK
November 8 2005 – BackStage
“Why, there’s a wench!” cries Petruchio. And he knows whereof he speaks. For Kate is not only an heiress and a beauty, but a fiery rebel who is every bit Petruchio’s match. Their courtship plays out in battle: a kick to the groin, a right to the jaw. It is love at first punch.
Never did we have a raunchier or more spirited production of The Taming of the Shrew than the Queen’s Company’s current offering at Walkerspace. This all-woman company, under Rebecca Patterson’s inspired direction, plays fast and loose with the classic, rearranging lines — even deleting whole scenes — and underscoring the action with music from every genre. But it all works in capturing the very essence of Shakespeare’s battle-of-the-sexes comedy. Wit and humor mix with low comedy; clever touches include using a blowup plastic doll to simulate the bland Bianca. It all plays out on a bare stage with minimal props at an unpretentious little Off-Off-Broadway house, and it was never truer that the substance of theatre can indeed be an actor, a text, and a bare stage.
The production’s centerpiece is the single-named Samarra, who plays the strutting, confident, irrepressible Petruchio. This is the sexiest Petruchio we have ever seen on stage, exuding testosterone with every gesture. Samarra, in fact, gives an amazing transgender performance. Carey Urban’s Kate proves to be a worthy opponent, matching Petruchio blow for blow and word for word. Hers is a polished performance, with never a false move. Equally noteworthy is Gisele Richardson as Baptista, the perpetually surprised and shocked father of Kate. In general, the cast members offer solid portrayals under Patterson’s careful, clean direction. The timing is flawless and the fight scenes (staged by Rachel Scott) are right on target.
This is a remarkable interpretation of Shakespeare’s timeless comedy.