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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, May 10, 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 19
A 'Shrew-d' move - Trailer-park remount of the Bard classic is well-suited for our times
Arts & Entertainment
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A 'Shrew-d' move - Trailer-park remount of the Bard classic is well-suited for our times

by Miryam Gordon - SGN A&E Writer

THE TAMING OF THE SHREW
SEATTLE SHAKESPEARE COMPANY
Through May 12


Theater is perhaps the most ephemeral of all the arts. It is created as it is performed, virtually never to be the same again from one performance to the next. Every time you see a play, it's almost always a different cast and a different setting and a different perspective and ... well, different. You almost never get to see the same play again, once its run is over.

For just a little while - in fact, just the rest of this weekend - you can have one of the most fun Shakespeare experiences imaginable, and if you saw this Shrew for free in the park in 2009, you know what a joyous opportunity that is. Director Aimée Bruneau made a radical decision that year - to set The Taming of the Shrew in a trailer park!

If memory serves, the Seattle Shakespeare Company did not jump up and down and yell 'Hooray!' about that idea when it was proposed. There were all kinds of trepidations, but when she pulled it off and it proved to be a brilliant concept, there was joyous celebration.

DIRECTOR, CAST REUNITE
It turns out that it's very easy to understand Shakespeare with a Southern accent. It's also easier to watch Shakespeare with a boatload of comic shtick added - and 400-year-old sensibilities about marriage and 'Lord and Master this' and 'Lord and Master that' make more sense in the Southern conservative esthetic as well.

Somehow, Shakes decided, to our great glee and happiness, that this production deserved a remount in their 2013 mainstage season. Not only were they able to get Bruneau back, but also almost the entire former cast! That's close to impossible these days. The original cast had two brilliant leads: David Quicksall as Petruchio - a classic Shakespearean asshole - and Kelly Kitchens as the biggest bitch in literature. They had chemistry and spunk, energy and edge to spare. And they're back!

I wrote, in 2009: 'A triumph of clear character development is portrayed by Kelly Kitchens as Kate the Shrew. Kitchens makes Kate not just spiteful, but so hurt by rejection that she doesn't believe in a good life anymore, and hates everyone. The 'turnaround' that Kate does in the play, becoming a totally biddable wife who proclaims that all women should bow down before their husbands, is believable by Kitchens because Petruchio is finally the guy, played valiantly by David Quicksall, who sticks with her flames and arrows long enough to finally convince her that he won't leave her. So, her final speech is more like that section of the Bible where it says wives are supposed to love their husbands just like husbands are supposed to love their wives. In other words, it's reciprocal. There is nothing in Kate's capitulation that smacks of subservience. That's just brilliant. What a way to make Shrew relevant in the 21st Century!'

A TRUE PERIOD PIECE
Much of the tech team reprise their roles as well. And they recap the same: 'K.D. Schill's hysterical trailer-trash costumes and Rob Witmer's slyly sarcastic choices of retro '70s music (1970s, that is), make for sweet accompaniments.' The set by Craig Wollam is a lot more complex than a small travel trailer and some curtaining, and the indoor lighting by Jessica Trundy is new, since outdoor lighting is never needed.

There are a lot of other terrific players in this large cast, but Brandon Ryan as the clowniest sidekick is unforgettable and Karen Jo Fairbrook, reprising as Mama Baptista in what is usually a fatherly role, is a Southern hoot in her bling and sass.

The play's content gets increasingly more challenging as women develop, take, and wield their personal power. In a way, it may be a good thing in the future to think that the play is unproduceable as written, because women can't stand the way it portrays them anymore. But there are many pockets of America where these attitudes still prevail and where women's power is still threatening. Here in Seattle, at least, we can laugh at those Shakespearean attitudes while recognizing that for some, those ideas are not yet merely historical. For more information, go to www.seattleshakespeare.org or call (206) 733-8222. This production is in the Cornish Playhouse at Seattle Center.

Discuss your opinions with sgncritic@gmail.com or go to www.facebook.com/SeattleTheaterWriters.

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