BWW Review: Unspoken TAMING OF THE SHREW Speaks Colorful Volumes at Synetic Theater
Modern adaptations of Shakespeare productions are not uncommon. It's not often, however, one comes across a modern adaptation of a Shakespeare work with absolutely no dialogue. Alas, Synetic Theater has done it more than once through their acclaimed production of The Taming of the Shrew, adapting it to Hollywood's (or "Paduawood's") socialite society through absurd costumes, flamboyant but incredible choreography by Zana Gankhuyag, and strange characters. While these elements alone seem unappealing, the combination of those elements added to the comedic design of the production but was also extremely captivating. I sometimes felt I was in a trance in a couple of scenes. I give major kudos to Tsikurishvili for the creativity that certainly shines throughout the performance.
Tsikurishvili also gave a standout performance as Katherina (otherwise known as the shrew). While there was no dialogue, I felt every emotion she portrayed: her anger, her fear, her sadness, and her happiness. Her evolution from the beginning of the production, with this wall around her heart combined with the hint jealousy of her sister Bianca, to becoming vulnerable and seeing her heart broken, was startling. Nutsa Tediashvili also captivated with her portrayal of Bianca, practically the emblem of whimsical and absurd Paduawood. Her love for Lucentio (Justin Bell), however, shows that she cares about more than how she looks for the ever-present paparazzi.
The highlight of the production is definitely the relationship between Katherina and Pertruchio (Ryan Sellers), portrayed as a motorcycle-driving painter and "bad boy". Although a money reward underlies their marriage, I thoroughly enjoyed the seemingly endless jokes that Pertruchio plays on Katherina throughout the production, even getting her to accept his proposal through a hilarious cat-and-mouse-like scene. Although Katherina is a force to be reckoned with, Sellers does a wonderful job balancing her stubbornness with Pertruchio's playfulness, even if he comes off at times as uncaring and mean.
Although comedy abounds, you can't help but continue to feel pity for Katherina throughout the production, always wondering whether she'd find some sort of happiness like her sister Bianca. At a dinner with a group of Pertruchio's friends, complete with choreography that is fairly reminiscent of the "La Vie Boheme" number from Rent, Katherina falls into one of the most ridiculous hallucinations that could only fit in with this particular production. Although hysterical, it masterfully serves to deliver a kind of hopelessness that seems to surround Katherina.
Despite the pity and hopelessness, the play still lives up to its comedic aspect through its whimsical costumes, Bianca's numerous suitors, Katherina's annoyance about almost everything in her life, Grumio's (Alex Mills) antics, and of course the over-the-top lifestyle of Paduawood. Despite this, my favorite part of the production was one of the last scenes between Katherina and Pertruchio. Without giving too much away, it's a colorful look on how Katherina learns what is Pertruchio's new inspiration to paint again and it's contrasted from the intense scene before where Pertruchio is depicted intensely painting out of desperation when he finds that inspiration. These emotional scenes balanced with the comedic aspects throughout showed the heart behind the absurdity, definitely enhancing the production quality and making me wish I had a more creative imagination.
Running Time: 90 minutes, no intermission
THE TAMING OF THE SHREW is now playing at Synetic Theater - 1800 South Bell Street in Arlington, VA - until March 19, 2017. Tickets can be purchased here or by calling the box office at (866) 811-4111.
Photo Credit: Johnny Shryock