TAMING OF SHREW: LB SHAKE FUNNIES UP FARCE BY FOCUSING ON NUANCEBy Greggory Moore
It’s certainly not true that if you’ve seen one Shakespeare play, you’ve seen them all, but frequenting the Richard Goad Theatre can give you a bit of déjà vu, what with so many troupe members popping up in each and every play (the Bard’s plays have plenty of roles) and so little variation in the sets, props, and costuming (limitations at least somewhat inherent to performing in a tiny black-box theatre in Elizabethan style). That’s why when Long Beach Shakespeare is really able to get one to pop—such as with their current show, The Taming of the Shrew—it comes almost as a surprise.
No one should ever confuse The Taming of the Shrew with Hamlet (LB Shake’s next production) or even the more pithy comedies such as The Merchant of Venice or As You Like It. That may be why director Helen Borgers does not have her usual notes in the program: there’s not much to say about a piece of pure farce.
But sometimes all Shakespeare wanted to do was be funny, and he often found unique and clever ways of being just that. But because of the highfalutin language he used—a good portion of which is unfamiliar to all but nerds with English degrees who make sure the Shakespeare on their shelf is full of good annotations—he always needs the help of the actors to pull this off.
Under Borgers’ spot-on guidance, the cast hits all the right notes, flavoring each joke with the inflection and facial expression necessary to make the jibes work—not just as point moments of humor, but as true repartee. This helps ensure the play flows at just the right pace.
In the lead roles, Eric Snyder plays Petruchio with a smooth, smiling masculine arrogance that is never serious enough to make us dislike him and attractive enough for us to understand that when Kate comes to dig him, it’s not merely because he’s tamed her. For her part, Adrienne Marquand successfully brings out both the pragmatist and the lover in Kate.
Every actor in the cast has fine moments, so it feels a bit ungracious to single anybody out. But Sean Scofield has quickly become one of my LB Shake favorites, here affecting the variety of clever banter that comes out of the mouth of Lucentio’s man with seeming effortlessness. Tranio seems to enjoy life even more than his master and in some ways is more partner than servant (an idea furthered by Kyle Conley’s gentle affect), and Scofield revels in that state of emotional lightness.
Typically I would have nothing to say about the costuming of an LB Shake show, since the concept and quality is pretty unwavering between one production and the next, but I particularly liked it here, if for no other reason than for the fantastically ostentatious wedding outfits Ashley Marquand has given to Petruchio and his man Grumio (Josh Bross). Superfab.
The Taming of the Shrew is not great Shakespeare in the substantive sense. But it is great farce when played by the right hands. And this time out, all of the right hands are on deck.
THE TAMING OF THE SHREW LONG BEACH SHAKESPEARE CO. @ THE RICHARD GOAD THEATRE • 4250 ATLANTIC AVE • LONG BEACH 90807 • 562.997.1494 LBSHAKESPEARE.ORG • FRI-SAT 8PM, SUN 2PM • $10-$20 • THROUGH SEPTEMBER 9
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