I just saw the Chicago Shakespearian Theatre’s rendition of Taming of the Shrew, yet this was the catch; it was a play within a play. The actual play was portraying the dynamics of an acting troupe who was rehearsing for shakespeare’s classic comedy; Taming of the Shrew.
At first I was a tad appalled by the blatant sexuality and visual lewdness of the character costumes (imagine medieval jock straps worn on the exterior, a scene with chaps beneath a man’s mock wedding dress….and other such things) but it was rather like southpark. Once you see past the initial shock of language you find a witty, on tack, on mark critique of society….well no, that was a poor connection because the wordplay within this production, on both levels was so incredibly beyond anything Southpark has ever managed, and while I cannot stomach the cartoon for too long due to the language and immature jokes, this performance was, in a word; skill. The interludes of modern plot and the two layered dynamics of each character offered the best sort of entertainment; a challenge to the intellect and emotions. The background story which one always invents for each actor when watching a live performance was offered to the audience, and I was lulled beyond the normal suspension of reality which normally occurs when delving into fiction, for the interrupting scenes felt so close to real life that everyone forgot these sections are still an act.
I was utterly blown away. To address one specific puzzle however may I present Kat, played by Angela, who was really (this is reality) played by Bianca Amato. She, after being swept into a marriage unwanted, is seemingly broken like a horse and trained like a dog through hunger and want for sleep by her new husband. Another interesting character, for in the asides he portrays not some brusque antagonist but a kindhearted and funhearted man up to a challenge who is intrigued by a woman who is his equal in spirit. He strips her of her prejudices and defences against all and sets forth not the solo battle against the world in which she had been operating previously, but rather a game for two making fools of the world. Finally, in a word battle between the sun and the moon, she concedes to play to achieve her own agenda. However upon second request, she joins in the mockery of a man (who turns out to be luchensio’s real father) and it seems that she enjoys herself. She has stepped into the game, and finds that here despite whatever foolish front they portray in farce to the world, she is appreciated and equal. I see the final scene where she answers her husband’s bidding and delivers a lecture on womanly servitile obedience to a flabbergasted crowd as a victory for both Katharina and Petruchio. Somewhat like my personal goal to marry a man with an incredible sense of humor, so that, when we get white hair we can play jokes on the world together by pretending to be senile.
What truly pushed this story into the realm of breathstopping interest was that just as katerina was stepping into the so called ‘game’ Angela was "getting the F*$! out" of her’s. The mounting tension of dominance between her and her producer/partner/lover parralled in dialectic contradiction the relationship between Katharina and Petruchio. Only with the modern couple, which felt too real for comfort, ‘Petruchio’(director) was losing grip of her Katharina(Angela) and the entire process did not end in a gaining, but rather a loss of trust.
For anyone who defines 'cool' as Demetri Martin does, Petruchio was wearing leather sleeves!