Brittany Pierce-Caiazza’s Review of The Taming of the Shrew

June 23, 2019

The Rivoli Theatre

South Fallsburg

June 23, 2019

     William Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew is one of The Bard’s most well-known and oft-produced plays. And it was what 10 Things I Hate About You is based on; so all 90s kids revel in the mere thought of it. It is a play with many nuances and potential for physical comedy. The Sullivan County Dramatic Workshop (SCDW) in Fallsburg offered an enjoyable and light-hearted production at the Rivoli Theater these past two weekends.

There are many working pieces with Taming. The story begins, traditionally, with Christopher Sly setting the scene for the action that will follow. It has become more common to skip Sly and his friends in favor of jumping right into the action, and SCDW followed suit. This brings us to Baptista and the issue with his two daughters: Kate and Bianca. Kate is horrid and seemingly unweddable, while Bianca is beautiful and desired by many. Baptista refuses to allow Bianca to be courted until he marries off Kate, which, of course, leads to Bianca’s suitors desperately hatching a plan to find someone to marry the shrew. Enter Petruchio, a true narcissist from Verona who has come to Padua to find a wealthy wife. Lucky for him, suitor Hortensio knows just the girl. What follows is a fiercely passionate word-war and battle of the sexes, with, depending on the production, no clear ending as to whether Petruchio has truly tamed the shrew. And as for Bianca, she lives happily with her chosen mate.

Typically the title roles are the stand-outs, but this time it was Chris Morgan as Hortensio, one of Bianca’s suitors. As Hortensio, Morgan is animated, articulate, energetic, and entertaining. You truly believe he wants to be with Bianca, and you feel sad and supportive of his decision to abandon his pursuit when he sees her with Lucentio. At only 17, I imagine there is a bright future for him.

In the role of Kate, Taylor Lamerand does a passable job as “the shrew,” jumping right into a hostile-mode, from the first line. However, she struggled to find the right balance between outright hostility and purposeful conniving. As her “suitor,” Petruchio, Carlos Holden certainly has the voice and stage presence for presenting Shakespeare, but he was overly stiff in his delivery of Petruchio, although finally breaking down his walls in Act II. They make a beautiful pair, but their chemistry felt forced, although the final scene made it clear which way the director wanted to bring the audience in the great, “Is she tame? Is she playing the game?” A debate that is so common with Shrew.

Amber Shmidt as Tranio had quite a job to do, and she was up to the task. She was able to switch between servant-playing-the-role-for-master, and being-the-master smoothly and without confusion. As Lucentio, Alexis Costa was convincing, as she made the immediate decision to pursue Bianca, a lovely Becky Salerno. Costa really shone in the final scene as the overly confident partner who is then put in his/her place. Of special mention is Anna Puleo as Vincentio and the Haberdasher for some serious make-up. Her “beards” were on-point and looked great from the audience. She is truly animated and committed to her roles.

        

The set for this production of The Taming of the Shrew was simple and effective, but the backdrop of the Globe Theater (or something very similar) was beautiful. I was unclear what the actual time period was supposed to be, but I feel confident in saying modern-day, although the musical choices might suggest differently. The actors were present, responsive, and in-tune with each other. Shakespeare is tricky, and the company of SCDW’s production of The Taming of the Shrew was well-prepared and enjoyable. Nice job everyone!

 

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