Shrewdly this one is set in a sitcom!

By: Apr. 15, 2024
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I have to admit I was quite skeptical when I heard the CLASSICAL THEATRE COMPANY was going to do THE TAMING OF THE SHREW set in a 1950s American sitcom such as THE Dick Van Dyke or DONNA REED SHOW. But somehow, I didn’t realize that director Dana Bowman is a genius! So many of these shows from “back in the day” have this weird view of women as “ultimate housewives” and little else, so the text of SHREW lines up perfectly with them! It’s a reminder that a show written in 1590 was just as problematic as American comedy from less than a hundred years ago 1950. The comedy works! Dana also has assembled some of Houston’s premier comedic actors to grace the stage, so THE TAMING OF THE SHREW becomes simply a joy to watch rather than a “problem play” to pick apart. This is Shakespeare done right! 

The well-known story is one of Shakespeare’s comedies studied regularly. It involves a father who has two daughters, Katherina and Bianca. The younger one has many desperate suitors, but he has ordained no man shall marry Bianca until Katherina is settled into matrimony. You see, the issue is that Katherina a handful. She is petulant, strong, feisty, and takes no guff from any man or woman. The suitors of Bianca implore Petruchio to “marry and tame” Katherina so that they may court her. One of these suitors has cloaked himself as a Latin teacher and done so to get close to Bianca. He is, in fact, a Lord, but he has his servant pretending to be him. Would we have a Shakespeare show without a masquerade? Petruchio breaks Katherina by using psychology and force, and eventually, Bianca is free to marry. All the characters end up in a happy place, but most of us agree the text is misogynistic when looked at from today’s view. 

Kregg Dailey takes on the macho shrew tamer Petruchio, and Laura Kaldis is his match as Katherina in this production. They are both extremely adept at doing physical comedy and also take on Shakespeare as if Norman Lear wrote the lines. Kregg’s performance is so well-informed that he turns many problematic passages around and on their head. Laura often does the same, and I could not imagine a more perfect pairing to head this one up. Watching them verbally spar is a joy, and watching them add in physical comedy is a revelation. These are some of the best Shakespeare performances I have seen, and they really are wonderful anchors for this show. They have an ease with the language and add a layer of crack comic timing over it that will translate to modern audiences. Plus, they are just simply REALLY cute together.   

But do not be fooled into thinking we just have strong leads. What is wild is that THE TAMING OF THE SHREW is top to bottom cast with the utmost care for quality. John Dunn and Lyndsay Sweeney almost steal the show with the smallest roles in the entire manuscript. When will someone wise up and simply give these two a show to be featured in? Hopefully together. Marc Alba, Austin Atencio, Domonique Champion, Ted Doolittle, Fritz Eagleton, Patrick Fretwell, Alan Hall, and Benito Vasquez all round out the cast as supporting characters that are adept at Shakespeare and effortless in their comic chops. Literally, everyone is playing at a hilarious level, and they all bring this to life brilliantly. And then you have Lindsay Ehrhardt taking on Grumio, a servant of Petruchio. She plays it as if she is a secretary in the same mold as Jane Hathaway from THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES, and it is a scream. Everyone is fully in a 50s sitcom and at the same time fully in a Shakespeare show. And don’t even get me started on the “commercial breaks,” which are laugh-out-loud funny and could be their own play. 

Technically, there is some set wizardry happening of the highest degree. Lee O. Barker’s scenic design is a marvel, going from neighborhood to individual 50s-style homes in short order. Costumes by Lilli Lemberger also invoke that classic sitcom feel that bolsters the authenticity. Jonathan Harvey has laugh cues and period music, and it’s all just wonderful. If the cast is having a blast, the tech crew has certainly found a way to play in their own field.  

I don’t think you are going to find a funnier TAMING OF THE SHREW easily. Director Dana Bowman has lucked out to get the cast and crew that could pull this off, and she had extreme insight into how to handle the problems the show represents to women today. You will laugh, and you will find it a delight. Sitting through TAMING OF THE SHREW was never a chore, and I was enchanted from start to finish. If you are lucky enough to catch the show, I promise it will be one of the most pleasant couple of hours you will spend in a theater this year. I just could not stop smiling.  

THE TAMING OF THE SHREW, produced by the Classical Theatre Company, is presented at the Deluxe Theater at 3303 Lyons Avenue. It only plays through April 20th. The show is general admission, but the theater has stadium-style seating. There is not a bad seat in the house.


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