‘Taming’ delivers laughs despite age

Photo courtesy of Shakespeare Tavern

Located less than a mile off campus, the New American Shakespeare Tavern has been host to all of Shakespeare’s plays as well as the works of many other playwrights over the past couple decades. Its most recent production, “Taming of the Shrew,” has seemingly been more popular than most of the others, as it has been performed yearly since 2014.

At first glance, this play is severely outdated with its use of antiquated English grammar,
deprecated vocabulary and overall themes, but upon closer inspection, one might notice that even as it is, “Taming of the Shrew” can still be enjoyed.

This tale of how to deal with an unruly woman is set in Padua, Italy, sometime during the 14th, 15th or 16th century. The exact date has no real bearing on the plot since neither rapid long
distance communication nor proper identification methods were available, and both would destroy a good portion of the plot.

Katherina and Bianca, portrayed by Dani Herd and Kristin Storla, are sisters doomed to be at odds with each other for the sheer enjoyment of the writer. The younger, Bianca, has many suitors, but cannot marry any before her sister finds a husband. The rest of the play is about finding such a man for Katherina and how the two eventually come to terms with their respective marriages.

Bianca comes across as lighthearted and decidedly one dimensional, as she seems not to care about her prospective husbands as individuals and is pleased to merely gloat over her suitor-less sister. The blame for this debacle cannot rightly be placed on Storla, as an actor cannot be held responsible for the faults of his or her role’s writer. Bianca simply had little development in the original script, and so she was doomed to fall flat in the performance.

Even with a character dedicated to cheap laughs, “Taming of the Shrew” manages to deliver Shakespeare’s trademark wordplay and intricate jokes in the form of Katherina and her
husband, Petruchio (Matt Nitchie), whose dialog is marked by quick wit and severe loathing, which inexplicably turns to adoration.

With three offstage weddings, several cases of hidden or mistaken identity and no deaths (although there is a widow present), “Taming of the Shrew” is undoubtedly a comedy. The interplay of Herd and Nitchie as Katherina and her husband is energetic and, with the proper mindset, quite humorous. Unfortunately, the proper mindset must be that women should be demure and obedient to their husbands.

Perhaps the best portion of this outdated yet enjoyable play are the scenes where Drew Reeves portrays Grumio, a servant to Petruchio. Grumio is hopelessly under Petruchio’s control, and he often comments on his master’s eccentricities. His character embodies contradiction, as he can be dejected and tired one moment and ecstatically subservient the next.

In total, the New American Shakespeare Tavern’s production of “Taming of the Shrew” is entertaining, yet there are more modern ways to spend one’s time. Shakespeare Tavern will be performing “Taming of the Shrew” until Sept. 17, when they will begin “The Reign of King
Edward III.” Many postulate that this play of uncertain origin was a collaborative work involving William Shakespeare.