Multi-tiered passions

The Taming of the Shrew

I had a blast at Shakespeare in the Park.

This year’s selection, The Taming of the Shrew, is a passionate production, freely adapted by director Joyce Henderson and set in the Roaring ‘20s. Henderson spends little time worrying about the inherent degree of control that’s lost when performing among the elements and insects, instead embracing that dynamic to create a loose and fun rendition of the famous romantic comedy.

The relaxed communal atmosphere of the temporary outdoor theater tucked away in Bidwell Park’s impressive Cedar Grove contributed toward engaging the audience’s attention. And, with Shakespeare, anything that makes concentrating on the story easier is welcome. But this production wasn’t satisfied with merely telling the story—it went beyond narration and succeeded in reaching the rarified air of making a connection.

Henderson’s pacing is the key to this. The actors were let loose on the expansive multi-tiered set, relishing the freedom, lustily pursuing and reacting to one another in an energetic, well-timed ballet that brought the audience to the heart of matters of love and the roles we play in pursuit of it.

The white-hot center of the action is Jeff Dickenson as John Patrick (the updated version of Pertruchio). All sweat and no starch, Dickenson holds court with an immense strength that suits his character’s greedy lust, as well as his equal devotion to pure love.

For the part of Kate, the object of Patrick’s pursuits, Betty Burns is the perfect choice for the strong-willed "shrew," bringing a surprising grace to the part as well. Every role here deserves consideration, but the hilarious Erick Ricketts as Barnabee (Grumio) is all I have space for.