10 things I like (and don't) about 'Shrew.' HART's 'Taming of the Shrew' reviewed

August 12, 2013
Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

Heartland Actors Repertory Theatre returned to White River State Park with its staging of William Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew”—known to certain audiences as “The play that the movie ’10 Things I Hate About You’ is based on."

It’s also known as one of Shakespeare’s “problem plays.”

What’s the problem?

Well, for all of its sharply drawn characters, its wonderful wordplay, and its opportunities for raucous physical humor, “Shrew” remains a play about a man who “tames” a spirited young woman using methods that wouldn’t be out of place in the opening scenes of “Zero Dark Thirty.” If Petruchio knew about water boarding, he might have given it a shot to help get Katherine under his control.

How did HART's production fare?

Here’s 10 things I liked—and didn’t like—about it.

Let’s start with the likes:

1.    The setting and the simplicity of the staging. No backdrop could evoke the play’s Italian setting better than the bridge over the White River at sunset. Gorgeous.

2.    The costumes. When you have minimal staging and the sun still out for Act One and then some (thank you, Daylight Savings Time), costumes are key in helping keep the focus.

3.    Lisa Ermel’s youthful playing of the lead. While Katherine’s age isn’t specified by Shakespeare, the more mature the character is, the tougher it is to buy her actions. Ermel captured the complex confusion of young woman used to controlling situations through outrageous behavior, suddenly thrust into an arranged marriage with a man she knows she can’t physically defeat.

4.    Ryan Artzberger’s handling of the “He that knows better how to tame a shrew” soliloquy. What could be an arrogant boast instead, through Artzberger’s Petruchio, becomes a revealing moment from a confused man in love who wishes he could think of another way to handle the matter.

5.    Eddie Curry performing outside of Beef & Boards. One of the pleasures of HART’s summer Shakespeare is that it draws talent from other professional companies. It’s rare to see Curry outside of his home base, where he keeps very busy. Here, he engaged but never upstaged as Gremio, suitor of Katherine’s sister Bianca.

6.    The tableau of the final scene. The final scene is the toughest to stomach as Katherine rationalizes her fate and instruct women on how to defer to men—even going so far as to put herself below Petruchio’s boot. Visually, though, the scene is sumptuous and beautifully staged by director Michael Shelton, giving the dinner scene a warmth that helps make the text almost palatable.

7.    The live music. A student ensemble played period music before—and during—the play, including being addressed directly by an actor in one of the play’s funnier moments.

8.    The crowd. There’s something joyful about an evening when more than a thousand people are gathered for a play.

And the problems:

9.    Sound. Sound. Sound. Sound. Sound. With frequent mic drop outs, pops, and buzzes, tech was a near-constant distraction. Friday was bad, making me pity those further back then myself who had to struggle to hear when amplification failed. I returned on Saturday for a bit of the first act to see if the situation had improved. Better, yes. Good, no.

10.    “Shrew” itself. In these enlightened times—times where most of us have trouble rejoicing in the humiliation and subjugation of women—a variety of efforts have been made to make the show palatable. Chicago Shakespeare commissioned playwright Neil LaBute to add backstage scenes where the actors play actors wrestling with the show’s issues. In London, the Royal Shakespeare Company paired ‘Shrew’ with John Fletcher’s table-turning sequel “The Tamer Tamed” (which was written in Shakespeare’s lifetime). Other productions include the usually cut early “Shrew” scenes in which the whole story is presented as a play-within-a-play, mitigating some of the apparent misogyny.

Still others make efforts to show that Petruchio and Katherine are somehow playing a game with each other and that there really is true love between these semi-equals.  

Some productions simply take the play at face value, arguing that Shakespeare wasn’t writing lessons for living. Instead, he wrote a farce set in a particular historical period.

HART’s version doesn’t seem to have a particular take on the matter. As such, it avoids pretention, apology, and preachiness. But it also doesn’t do much to mitigate the feeling that we’ve just witnessed a celebration of submissiveness.  


  • New sound equipment?
    Same sound problems as last year, though new eqmt. was purchased. So bad, we left at intermission. The Greeks staged plays for 10,000 without mikes. Perhaps some lessons could be learned from them.

Post a comment to this blog

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
  1. Good Day I am Mr (Victoria Wright) from United state of America, i stayed in NEW YORK, and i have a broke up business, until i found this company email who help me to gain a loan for business,, and now i want to used this short medium to congratulate the below company for the fast and safe money they loan to me without any form of collateral, i loan 500,000USD from the company to save my business and lots more, i saw their mail on the internet, everyone always give testimony for what they did, so i quickly contacted them and they all did everything for me without stress and my money was sent to my account just 3 days later, i was surprise and i feel so glad, now i have a standard business control agent who help me, now i will advice those who need urgent loan to contact him at the bellow email:zenithfirm12@gmail.com

  2. NOTICE:This is to inform the general public that Vampires are real. My name is James Franklyn.,am an agent of vampire,am here to introduce our new world trend to you,a world of vampire where life get easier,we have made so many persons vampires and have turned them rich,you will be assured long life and prosperity,you shall be made to be very sensitive to mental alertness,stronger and also very fast,you will not be restricted to walking at night only even at the very middle of broad day light you will be made to walk.In case you are wildly oppressed by some unscrupulous persons we can still help you fight them.Your protection is assured immediately you join.Just contact the bellow email if you are interested we are here to attend to you anytime you want us. Contact the bellow email for more details. Email:vampirescreed@hotmail.com Sincerely: James Franklyn.

  3. Bravo! Someone else that is willing to speak the truth! Bravo!_____NBCSN is available in almost 2 MILLION more homes than just a few years ago, but Indycar STILL gets less total viewers than it did just a few years ago when NBC took over Versus. Attendance and ratings cratered with the end of season races (just when the title battle got "interesting" HAH!__________And now...new race in Basilia, where Miles celebrated the "rich history" of Indycar racing there. Rich history? What, 7 events in the 100 years of AOW? Yep, some history. Well, at least its an oval. It's not??? Are you kidding me??? Gosh darn road racin furriners.

  4. PURITY RAY LOAN OFFER........ Have you been denied by your banks,or are you in need of of an urgent loan to pay of your bills we are capable of giving loans @ cheaper rate to interested individuals, student, companies and members of the public in need of finance to settle bills, we do offer considerable loans which you can count on. For more information on our various types of loan,then you will have to contact PURITY RAY LOAN FIRM, to help you achieve your desire LOAN APPLICATION FORM TO BE FILLED BORROWERS INFORMATION * Full name:………………………. * SEX * ……………………………. * Country………………………….. * State:……………………………. * Land:…………………………….. * Occupation:…………………….. * phone number:…………………. * Telephone: ………………………….. * Age:………………………………. * Amount needed as loan:……… * Loan Duration:………………….. * Propose of Loan:……………….. * Annual revenue:………………… * Monthly Income:……………….. * Guarantee:………………………. * Payment: monthly or annually Email.....purityrayloanfirm@gmail.com Thank you and God bless Mr Purity Ray PURITY RAY LOAN FIRM we tend to serve you better

  5. Problem: most of the people responding to this article don't know about this service AT ALL! Why? Lack of awareness. This isn't IndyGo. This is CIRTA: might as well be the mattress company because they are asleep at the wheel - something like 3 directors over the last year? Playing with federal grant money is great! This "region" wants commuter rail service, has spent MILLIONS on Transportation studies yet can't even support a commuter bus line? This is largely for suburban riders to get to downtown - not for "service people to work in our hotels and restaurants" ! Get your head out of your backside!! These are professionals, students etc. that don't want to fight traffic, save some money on parking, gas, stress.... if CIRTA would put their federal money into widely promoting the sevive to Greenwood, Fishers & Carmel instead of finding directors and studies - this would be a successful service. Our family uses(d) it daily for the last several years - but the recent uncertainty & now unreliability due to cuts from Carmel has been a problem. Now, costs us an additional $350/month for gas & parking ( $4200/year) plus vehicle wear, service, environmental impact ... YES - this REGION needs this this type of service in order to keep growing and getting the people it needs to fill skilled positions in downtown Indianapolis. Think outside of your own car !!!