Taming of the Shrew

Yesterday, I took my girls to the Roxy in Clarksville, Tennessee to see a performance of The Taming of the Shrew as a homeschool field trip.

I loved it, and so did my girls. My youngest daughter, who is only 11, said ” Well, I didn’t understand a word they said, but by watching them, I knew what was going on. It was funny.”

See, that’s the beauty of Shakespeare onstage. Shakespeare was never meant to be read from a book. The full effect of Shakespeare’s scripts only occurs  when a troupe of actors takes those words and magically transforms them into stories.These stories, when done well, are interesting and often hilarious. Even a younger child like my daughter, who may miss some of the beauty of the words and dialogue, can follow the story.

Taming is my number one favorite Shakespeare play. I love wordplay and repartee and this play has so much of it. Another thing that a well done version of Taming of the Shrew contains is lots of physical humor. Yesterday’s fight scene between Petruchio and Kate was one of the best that I’ve ever seen. And yeah, I’ve seen many versions of this play.

Things I liked about the version we saw yesterday:

  • Kate, played by Margaret Eilertson, was one of the best I’ve ever seen. She did an excellent job of demonstrating the subtle shift between “Katerina the Cursed” and “Kate, the prettiest Kate in Christendom, Kate of Kate Hall, my super-dainty Kate” who comes to love Petruchio. Also, Eilertson’s presentation of the Kate’s final monologue, scolding the other women for their selfish, disrespectful attitudes toward their husbands, was the absolute best I’ve ever seen, including the one that Liz Taylor gave in the 1967 movie version of the Taming of the Shrew.
  • I loved the costuming. The Roxy presented this play in the style of the 1920s and 1930s. I love it when people adapt Shakespeare’s works to other time periods.
  • Petruchio was masterfully played by Jonathan Whitney, who bears a remarkable resemblance to Flynn Rider from the Disney movie Tangled . With Kate having such a strong personality, it takes an equally strong one to stand up to her and make it believable. Despite an unfortunate pair of pirate pants (I could feel myself blushing…yikes), Petruchio was very well done.
  • Sometimes in these plays much attention is given to the lead roles and the supporting cast is rather mediocre. However, the other actors were great too. We especially loved Jay Doolittle’s Baptista (he was so cute!) and Michael Klug’s Gremio. Bianca was played by Emily Rourke, and we all wanted to slap her, which is a sign of a well-played Bianca–she’s supposed to be a manipulative, little snot.

A few cautions. First, King James English is used in Shakespeare of course, and the three letter word for donkey, considered crude in modern times, is sprinkled through the play. I just talked with my girls about that afterward. The make-out scenes between Bianca and Lucentio are ummm…very realistic. One of my friend’s daughters commented, “That kissing stuff isn’t as gross in the movies as it is in real life.” Considering that the Roxy is a small theater and we we sitting near the front, my 11 year old was about 10 feet away from some rather amorous behavior. I think she’s decided that kissing is  really disgusting and she’s going to avoid that for pretty much forever. I was a little nervous about taking my youngest to the play since Shakespeare can be a little raunchy, but overall, it wasn’t too bad.

Now that I’ve seen the Taming of the Shrew onstage, this weekend I am planning on watching my favorite movie version of this story, McClintock, starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara. While this movie was made a very long time ago, it’s still fabulous. This is a Western, cowboy version of Taming and I so love Maureen O’Hara in it.

I thoroughly enjoyed the Taming of the Shrew as presented by the Roxy. I hope in their next season they include another of Shakespeare’s comedies, because I will be there.

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