KPBS AIRDATE: July 12, 2002
In this controversial battle of the sexes, the male is typically the victor, the woman vanquished. But in the Globe’s new production of “The Taming of the Shrew,” it’s clear from their first meeting, that in Petruchio, Katharina has met her match. She seems willing, not whipped, more compliant than cowed, ungrudgingly giving up her “wildcat” ways for what promises to be a challenging and invigorating marriage. Today, we might say that the guy fought fire with fire, and the result was a brighter blaze.
Though many consider Shakespeare’s 400 year-old “Shrew” a misogynistic mating game, some just see it as a language-rich romantic comedy about the surrender that love demands. There still remains the little problem of Kate’s final speech, with all its lording of husband as “lord,” “keeper,” “sovereign,” who must be “served” and “obeyed” by a “weak” wife who should, as duty demands, “place her hand beneath her husband’s foot.” This is a pretty tricky finish, which sticks in our contemporary craw. Some interpretations have gone all out to give Kate a wink-nudge ending that makes you think she’s being nastily sarcastic, and she’s not going to change one whit. But here, the couple makes a lusty exit, both of them obviously exhilarated, hurrying off to their marriage bed. All told, John Rando has pulled off a robust and bawdy production, heavy on the comedy.
Fresh from the flush of his Tony win for the musical “Urinetown” on Broadway, Rando might have gone even further over the top than he did in his last visit to the Globe’s outdoor theater, with a shamelessly silly “Comedy of Errors.” But this show is hilarious without being ridiculous, and its opening sequence, adding the oft-omitted Christopher Sly, is brilliantly imaginative and surprising, repeatedly confounding and delighting the audience.
As usual, the nobles play the fools and their servants are absolutely masterful, especially Rainn Wilson as Tranio, with his side-splitting pantomime performance, and as Grumio, the uproarious Arnie Burton, who did great comic justice to “The Santaland Diaries” last year at the Globe. Jeffrey Nordling makes a strapping, swaggering Petruchio, Elizabeth Heflin an aptly shrewish shrew and Dakin Matthews is, as always, solid, here as the bemused patriarch, Baptista. Laura Heisler plays young Bianca as a blonde ditz-brain, and her various suitors are no less inane, but that’s acceptable. All’s Well That Ends Well, even if it is to the tune of Tom Jones singing “She’s a Lady.” The show never feels overdone, just well done. The costumes are superb, the energy contagious. I still don’t like that last speech; but all in all, as a feminist, I wasn’t offended. I had a terrific time.
©2002 Patté Productions Inc.