BWW Reviews: Seattle Shake's TAMING OF THE SHREW - A Rip Snortin' Good Time
I've always been leery of transplanting locales and time periods of classic plays just because we can. Naked "Macbeth", "Romeo and Juliet" in a high school, cartoon lions in Africa doing "Hamlet". Often times it's just to shake things up and lends nothing to the story. But the current production of "The Taming of the Shrew" from Seattle Shakespeare Company setting those battling lovers in a Trailer Park not only works but is also completely inspired. In an era of reality TV showing rednecks right and left, a story of feuding siblings, ball busting women and swaggering men is a perfect fit. And while I usually hate reality TV for its mocking of people it feels are inferior, this production shows no hate or contempt for the trailer park set but revels in their joy and boisterousness and invites you to laugh right along WITH them. And laugh you do!
In the Padua Trailer Park, Mama Baptista (Karen Jo Fairbrook) runs the show. She's the manager of the park and one of the wealthiest women around. She has two beautiful daughters; the sweet beauty queen Bianca (Brenda Joyner) and the evil tempered Kate (Kelly Kitchens). And while the fair Bianca has many suitors, no one will go near Kate for fear of losing their private parts, which poses a problem as Mama needs to marry Kate off before she can marry off Bianca. Enter Petruchio (David Quicksall) who doesn't care what his bride's demeanor is like as long as she comes with a healthy dowry. So can the dashing Petruchio tame the shrewish Kate? Well, that's the play.
OK, yes, the idea that women need to be subservient to their men is extremely dated, and Kate's final monologue extolling the virtues of being everything for your man may cause some hackles to be raised. But if you can manage to turn off your political correctness filter for a couple of hours then you're in for a hell of a show. Director Aimee Bruneau has created an incredible world that cleverly fits the classic tale into very modern sensibilities.
The entire cast is from the Gods! Quicksall and Kitchens play off each other perfectly. His braggadocio and her sharp tongue only make them all the more perfect for each other. Fairbrook is wonderful as Mama and puts a whole new spin on a character I've often felt was wasted. Joyner manages to create a character that on first glance seems vapid but is really the smartest person in the room. Brian Claudio Smith, John Ulman and Keith Dahlgren as the would-be suitors to Bianca couldn't be more different from each other and each manage several hilarious turns. And I have to mention Brandon Ryan and David S. Hogan in their brief yet oh so memorable roles. Ryan takes on multiple characters and infuses them with enough energy to power a small city. From his show stopping death scene to his spot on mimicry of the difficult brides to his feral protection of his master he never lets the audience forget who they should be watching. That is until Hogan steps into the spotlight. His mesh shirt and pleather pant wearing mulleted bad boy of a toady is a performance for the ages. You don't often walk out of the Shrew remembering the character of Grumio but you will now!
I can totally see why they felt the need to remount this production after its highly successful park show run back in 2009 and with much of the same cast. This is your second chance to catch this amazing bit of theater if you missed the park show. Don't wait; you may not get a third chance for quite some time.
"The Taming of the Shrew" from Seattle Shakespeare Company performs at The Playhouse at Seattle Center through May 12th. For tickets or information contact the Seattle Shakes box office at 206-733-8222 or visit them online at www.seattleshakespeare.org.
Photo credit: Chris Bennion