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.  

 

ADVERTISEMENT
  • 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

COMMENTS POLICY
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
ADVERTISEMENT
  1. Those of you yelling to deport them all should at least understand that the law allows minors (if not from a bordering country) to argue for asylum. If you don't like the law, you can petition Congress to change it. But you can't blindly scream that they all need to be deported now, unless you want your government to just decide which laws to follow and which to ignore.

  2. 52,000 children in a country with a population of nearly 300 million is decimal dust or a nano-amount of people that can be easily absorbed. In addition, the flow of children from central American countries is decreasing. BL - the country can easily absorb these children while at the same time trying to discourage more children from coming. There is tension between economic concerns and the values of Judeo-Christian believers. But, I cannot see how the economic argument can stand up against the values of the believers, which most people in this country espouse (but perhaps don't practice). The Governor, who is an alleged religious man and a family man, seems to favor the economic argument; I do not see how his position is tenable under the circumstances. Yes, this is a complicated situation made worse by politics but....these are helpless children without parents and many want to simply "ship" them back to who knows where. Where are our Hoosier hearts? I thought the term Hoosier was synonymous with hospitable.

  3. Illegal aliens. Not undocumented workers (too young anyway). I note that this article never uses the word illegal and calls them immigrants. Being married to a naturalized citizen, these people are criminals and need to be deported as soon as humanly possible. The border needs to be closed NOW.

  4. Send them back NOW.

  5. deport now

ADVERTISEMENT