Theater Review: "The Taming of the Shrew" at Hunger Artists Theatre Company
|Photos by Jennifer Blevins|
I am always so distraught when I think about 10 Things I Hate About You, a movie which was inspired by William Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew. Watching Heath Ledger in one of his first film roles, trying to win the heart of a very stubborn Julia Stiles by singing "Can't Take My Eyes Off of You," melts this writer's heart every time. Then you realize that he is no longer around to sing foolishly while outrunning the cops and that just makes you sad all over again.
Upon finding out that the Hunger
Artists Theatre Company's production of The Taming of the Shrew was set in a
modern-day Italian restaurant, my mind immediately went to the aforementioned
teen movie. Yet upon watching the Hunger Artists' version of the play, I
realized that The Taming of the Shrew storyline does not age well and, when
performed in a contemporary setting, the original story's flaws
are made painfully clear.
The play is about the fiery, shrewish but witty Katherina who, through a hastily arranged marriage with the equally witty Petruchio, is consequently softened and tamed. It also contains the usual side-plot romances, disguises, clever wordplay and happy marriage-filled endings that characterize Shakespeare's comedies.
The performers do well with their perspective roles. Katie Chidester brings the necessary feistiness to the role of Katherina and her chemistry with Mark Coyan's Petruchio is sizzling. Standout performers also include Anthony Galleran as Tranio, who plays the clever servant-turned-master with confidence and the right degree of self-satisfaction. The set is also very cleverly built, with enough paraphernalia on the walls and alcohol in the bar to give it the feel of a real, family-run Italian restaurant.
The modern setting of the play also brings attention to the many rowdy jokes and word-plays within The Taming of Shrew. It manages to illustrate to the audience that Shakespeare's skill with language is what has made his work so timeless. The way the words come out of the mouths of characters such as Katherina, Tranio and Gremio are as hilarious today as they were 400 years ago. And it's always refreshing to see Shakespeare performed in something other than tights and frills.
Despite this, there is no mistaking the very unequal and outdated nature of Katherina and Petruchio's marriage. While 10 Things I Hate About You had Kat and Patrick both compromise their respective personalities for their relationship, the play is lacking in that equality. Katherina in The Taming of the Shrew is the only one in the marriage who compromises and is willing to change. Petruchio is still the same in the end as he was in the beginning and, as such, their relationship is unequal.
Actually, on second thought, The
Taming of the Shrew does echo the plot of many romantic-comedies these days
where the women are all loud, shrewish characters in need of a man's love.
So maybe Shakespeare really was on to something revolutionary when he wrote the play.
THE TAMING OF THE SHREW AT THE HUNGER ARTISTS THEATRE COMPANY. 699-A STATE COLLEGE BLVD, FULLERTON, (714) 680-6803. FRI.-SAT., 8 P.M.; SUN., 7 P.M. THROUGH AUG. 16.