Theatre Review: “The Taming of the Shrew”
The partnership of Henley Street Theatre and Richmond Shakespeare presents its audience with a modern interpretation of the classic Shakespeare comedy “The Taming of the Shrew” directed by Jan Powell.
Taking place on a movie set in 1934, a director, played by Wendy Carter, has one day, and one day only, to shoot “The Taming of the Shrew,” and the filming is done right before the audience’s eyes, highlighting the behind the scenes action that may take place on a movie set.
Margaret Anderson, played by Liz Blake White, and Edward Sinclair, played by Matt Hackman, are the stars of the show portraying Kate and Petruchio in the film. The actor couple is married in real life and is going through a rough patch, often visibly bitter towards each other when the cameras aren’t rolling.
While there’s a back-story with the actors, the main storyline is that of Shakespeare’s “Shrew.” If you’re not familiar, Baptista, played by Mark Persinger, has two beautiful daughters, Kate and Bianca, played by the adorable McLean Jesse. Bianca has suitors lining up for her hand in marriage. However, Baptista has enforced a strict rule that Bianca may not marry until Kate is married. Problem is, Kate is insufferable, stubborn and well, just mean. Petruchio is enlisted to tame the wild woman and woo her so that Bianca’s suitors may have a chance.
John Mincks and Patrick Long give strong performances as one of Bianca’s suitors, Lucentio, and his servant, Tranio. For part of the play, Tranio poses as Lucentio so that Lucentio can pretend to be a Latin tutor to gain access to Bianca. Because it just wouldn’t be a Shakespeare comedy without a case of mistaken identity thrown in somewhere.
John Mincks provides such energy to any part he plays and once again displays his prowess in the realm of physical comedy. Liz Blake White is intense in her role as Kate, but her “Katherine Hepburn-esque” accent feels a bit out-of-place with the rest of the characters, who sound like they’re from Jersey, and takes away from her otherwise strong emotional performance. Stacie Rearden Hall is charming as Grumio, servant to Petruchio displaying excellent comedic timing.
This is a production that’s individual parts are better than its whole. While the concept of presenting the play’s action inside of a film set is very cool in theory, but the camera and the sideline action is very distracting. I found that I never really knew where to look.
Also, having two story lines going on at any given time can be very confusing and I feel that the back-stories of the actors aren’t developed enough for the audience to keep up with both.
The actors also sing during set changes which is a nice touch but I’m not sure entirely necessary.
Joshua Bennett’s set is very cool and minimal. Showcasing a grand stair case and patio with a large projector screen lining the back of the stage, displaying various backgrounds throughout, helping to switch settings.
I really like the idea of using the screen to add depth and make the set more dynamic, very fresh and stylish. Virginia McConnell’s costumes are gorgeous and extremely well made.
“The Taming of the Shrew” is playing at The Steward School through November 16th.
Check out www.henleystreettheatre.org for information
Jen Maciulewicz is theatre critic for GAYRVA.com and is a Richmond local. Jen attended VCU and holds a B.S. in Anthropology. She has starred as Reno Sweeney in Cole Porter’s “Anything Goes" and attended VCU’s School of Music. Follow Jen on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jenlaumac.
Given fuller measure are the funny men.July 11, 2016
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