Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Taming of the Shrew

Sarah Fallon as Katherina in The Taming of the Shrew. Photo by Michael Bailey

We saw the Saturday matinee performance of The Taming of the Shrew on June 26. The pre-show entertainment featured some wonderful banjo picking from Chris Johnston and John Harrell and a great rendition of Led Zeppelin's "Heartbreaker." We also got to hear the wonderful singing voice and flute playing of Jeremiah Davis. I thought we were going to get a Marshall Tucker Band song in there at some point with the flute. "Fire On The Mountain" for Henry IV, Part Two anyone?

Anyway, the pre-show speech off between Emily Gibson and Allison Glenzer segued into the rarely seen induction with a wonderful Tête à Tête between Gibson and Daniel Kennedy as the drunken sot Christopher Sly. The induction is hilarious and the highlight is seeing Rene Thornton, Jr. switch from formal wear with tails to full drag as the wife of the amnesiac Sly. For some reason, I've always loved seeing Rene play an old man too, and he delivers once again as Gremio.

On this day the stage belongs to Benjamin Curns. Curns, who plays Petruchio, is a top-rate stage actor and can play any type of role with aplomb. His interactions with the equally terrific James Keegan are wonderful. At one point Curns, who is a big pro wrestling fan, breaks out some moves from Ric Flair's playbook on Keegan! Curns and Sarah Fallon (Katherina) are always a delight together, and this performance was no exception. Fallon does a great job as the shrewish Kate and I loved how she looked disgustedly at me several times during the play for not sharing the "meat" that Keegan threw at me to keep away from her.

I also loved how Ginna Hoben played Bianca. The versions of Shrew that I have seen on film always portray her as an innocent, beautiful, perfect girl. Ginna plays up Bianca as a cunning, not quite innocent, bratish girl who constantly taunts the older Katherina. Some of Ginna's facial expressions during the play will have you in stitches. I've always said that Ginna is one of the best, if not the best, comedic performers in the company. Her comedic timing is terrific, her facial expressions hilarious, and her true strength is doing it with subtlety.

Other standout performers were Glenzer as Tranio ( sporting a strut right out of 1980s professional wrestling),  Keegan as Grumio, Kennedy as Sly & Hortensio, Johnston as the goofy, dopey Biondello, and Gibson as the sassy widow betrothed to Hortensio.

This is the first stage version of The Taming of the Shrew that I have seen. It was hilarious and I had a blast. I loved the language in this play. I must confess that I'm still a novice, but I am slowly becoming better able to understand the beauty of Shakespearean language. I highly recommend seeing this production more than once. I certainly will.

After the performance we were invited to a reception with ASC Co-Founder and director of most productions Jim Warren, Managing Director Amy Wratchford, ASC Director of Development Brenda Mead, Box Office manager Jennifer L. Jones, some of the Trustees and some actors. This company really makes you feel like a VIP and one of the family. There is no other theater company like it in the world and I can't stress how wonderful they are. To those of you from the ASC reading this I give my heartfelt thanks. As some of us agreed during the reception, Shakespeare at the ASC is a spiritual experience.

Benjamin Curns as Petruchio in The Taming of the Shrew. Photo by Michael Bailey.

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