Under my thumb
The Taming of the Shrew
Arranged marriage—and young women who resist it—feature in the main shows at the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival. One show’s a comedy (The Taming of the Shrew) and one’s a tragedy (Romeo and Juliet). But the basic back story is the same … it just plays out to different endings.
The Taming of the Shrew centers on sharp-tongued Kate (long-limbed Carolyn Howarth, in a role that draws on her strengths). In this version, Kate strides on stage in a leather jacket, talking as loud and as tough as any man. Her first encounter with suitor Petruchio (Scott Coopwood) turns into a bruising, ear-searing standoff. Petruchio (who’s picked Kate because she stands to inherit a fortune) then sets out to “tame” the foul-tempered femme—a plotline that offends some moderns, women in particular.
I’ve long felt that the “taming” should be approached with a nod and a wink. (Remember that in Shakespeare’s time the ultimate patron of the arts was Queen Elizabeth—who famously never gave in to pressure to acquire a husband.) In director Scott Gilbert’s production, it’s ultimately more of a deal between strong-willed equals, rather than a literal subjugation.
Gilbert also inserts Will Shakespeare as a walk-on character—he’s confronted by the angry women from the cast at the finale. Gilbert plays this Shrew primarily for loud, kick-in-the-groin physical comedy and a few too many pop-culture references. It’s rather like a kid heaping different baking decors atop a cookie—there’s a momentary effect (fun!), but in the end it’s a bit much.