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Castaways Repertory Theatre The Taming of The Shrew

By • Jan 23rd, 2012 • Category: Reviews
The Taming of The Shrew by William Shakespeare
Castaways Repertory Theatre
A.J. Ferlazzo Building, Woodbridge, VA
Through February 4th
2:30 with one intermission
$10-$14
Reviewed January 21st, 2012

Some stories capture audience’s hearts from the moments they are first performed. They strike a deep chord with people either through their comedy or tragedy. And while time may show in their customs or conventions, audiences still rush to see these perennial plays. However, some shows do not hold up so well. Times change, and so with technology and cultural advancement opinions change as well. While most shows in William Shakespeare’s canon are considered pluperfect, this may not always be the case with modern audiences. Castaway Repertory Theatre’s production of The Taming of The Shrew shows the audience many flaws in the script, as well as in the overall production.

Audiences all over the world are well acquainted with the premise of The Taming of the Shrew, as it has been the basis for other dramatic works. A wealthy man, Baptista Minola, refuses to allow his beautiful daughter, Bianca, to be wed until her older sister, Kate, is married first. The problem is that the older sister is violent and disagreeable. Men who want to marry the fair sister collude to attempt to see the terrible elder sister married off. Then in the usual Shakespearean comedy style, there are disguises and mistakes. Conveniently a greedy man shows up who is willing to take the miserable woman to gain money. One of the most disturbing things about watching this play as a modern audience is the treatment of women. Far worse then the fact Kate is handed over like a piece of property is the way that she is abused and degraded in the name of comedy. This version of The Taming of the Shrew is set in a circus, but it doesn’t add anything to the ease or understanding of the characters. The carnival atmosphere and clown paint only further add to the uncomfortable objective of breaking a person’s will.

The acting performances in this show are strong, but the actors are at a disadvantage to the gimmicks. Oftentimes, there were many actors onstage, some of whom were acting and some who were performing circus tricks. There were moments where plot and character development take place with juggling and splits happening just behind those who were speaking. It was very hard to find and maintain the focus. There were also several times when actors played objects and animals such as trees and birds. The problem with this was that with their “regular” costumes visible and their interaction with characters, it was hard to tell if they were the trees, or if they were people pretending to be trees. In another scene, a woman portrayed a cat that was merely a cat. It’s very confusing when there are already people in costumes acting strangely, then putting on more costumes and acting stranger.

Nathan Clark delivered a solid performance as Baptista Minola the patriarch of the two daughters. Aimee Snow and Ian Wade as the play’s main couple of Pretuchio and Katharina were very bold and energetic with their characterizations that heightened the difficult nature of their respective characters. However, the aggression of their physical interactions was very forced and uncomfortable. Fred Lash and Joshua Jarrett also made a strong impression as suitors hoping to woo the fair Bianca. Sallie Willows and Penny McKee proved that women could do a wonderful job at playing men in Shakespeare’s work, which was an interesting twist. The character of Biondello, played by Zach Fletcher was most distracting. Whenever he was onstage, there were so many distractions swirling about from his clowning that it was difficult to remember other dialogue was happening, let alone follow it. He also delivered his lines with a very shrill singsong quality, which made him hard to understand.

The technical elements of the show were lovely in some aspects and a problem in others. The set, which consisted of a circus tent and some posters, was lovely and a nice depiction of a circus. Although it was very difficult to tell when the scene moved because such an informing piece of the set remained in place even when the scene was supposed to be at various locations. The props were adequate except for a piece of corn that made a very loud clank whenever it was thrown. For the most part the circus costumes were cute as such, but they didn’t always help understand the character. Petruchio’s lion tamer costume did visually educate about his character. But Bianca’s costume was dreadful; it was unattractive and ill fitting. It was also difficult to tell what kind of act she did in the circus- belly dancer, maybe? As she was Baptista’s beloved daughter, it’s hard to imagine that she wouldn’t have a lovely, flattering garment. The music used in the show was taken from the film Ratatouille, sounded very French and didn’t reflect the mood of an Italian circus. Something that served a huge distraction was the fact that everyone wore clown makeup. It was difficult to understand what the reason for all the cast wearing it was. For example, the makeup worn by Katharina and Bianca was very unflattering at many angles and Bianca’s makeup, with all the dots, appeared to be fish scales. When the characters step onstage and begin to speak it’s very difficult to listen to and process dialogue, which is spoken in a different version of English than is spoken today. Then, when the audience must try to process why makeup looks like pox marks or fish scales and what that is supposed to inform them of, the act of discernment becomes tedious. And then, trying to understand why the ringmaster and even businessmen are in clown makeup is more difficult still. In trying to be influenced by clowns and perhaps even Commedia dell Arte the play only succeeds in giving the audience more stimuli not more answers.

While Castaway Repertory Theatre’s version of The Taming of the Shrew gives a good effort to creating a circus like atmosphere it is often confusing. Even though several in the cast give ardent and well-shaped renderings of characters, it only adds to the confusion of understanding this outdated work. Is life a circus? Is abuse funny? The Taming of the Shrew is an occasionally charming and often bewildering take on a classic Shakespearean comedy that begs the question “is this show still relevant as a comedy?”

Photo Gallery

Kate (Aimee Snow) & Petruchio (Ian Wade) Zona (Debra Ovall)
Kate (Aimee Snow) & Petruchio (Ian Wade)
Zona (Debra Ovall)
Cherry (Xandra Weaver) Bianca (Mari Davis), Lucentio (Chaz Pando), Cat (Samantha Reau)
Cherry (Xandra Weaver)
Bianca (Mari Davis), Lucentio (Chaz Pando), Cat (Samantha Reau)

Photos by Jim Jenkins

The Players

  • Lucentio: Chaz Pando
  • Tranio: Joshn Bartosch
  • Biondello: Zach Fletcher
  • Baptista Minola: Nathan Clark
  • Katharina Minola: Aimee Snow
  • Bianca Minola: Mari Davis
  • Gremio: Fred Lash
  • Hortensio: Joshua Jarrett
  • Petruchio: Ian Wade
  • Grumio: Darren Marquadt
  • Pendant: Sallie Willows
  • Vincentio: Penny McKee
  • Widow: Remeja Thompson
  • Cherry/ Wedding & Party Guest/ Curtis/ Tree: Xandra Weaver
  • Pinoccchio/ Priest/ Gregory/Tree : Don Wilson
  • Roxie/ Cat/ Wedding Guest/ Waiter/ Tailor/ Tree: Samantha Reau
  • Boots/Wedding Guest/Sugarsop/Haberdasher/Tree: Andrew Buning
  • Formio/ Wedding Guest/ Nathaniel/ Tree/ Officer: Gavin Tameris
  • Gerbil/ Wedding Guest/ Adam/ Tree: Kirsten Burt
  • Zona/Wedding Guest/ Ralph / Tree: Debra Ovall

Production Team

  • Producer, Director: Katherine Bisulca
  • Assistant Director: Leslie Anne Ross
  • Stage Manager: Laura Clark
  • Set Design/ Construction: Scott Keller
  • Set Painting: Gavin Tameris, Katherine Bisulca, Laura Clark, Leslie Anne Ross
  • Costume Design/Construction: Leslie Ann Ross, Sabrina Chandler, Claudia Tameris
  • Hair/Makeup Design: Shelia Hyman, Shemika Barry
  • Lighting Design: Jarret Baker
  • Light Board Operator: Katre Ka M. Goins-Williams
  • Sound Design: Mike Clark
  • Music Deisgn: Katherine Bisulca
  • Sound Board Operator: Stephen Bisulca
  • Props: Anna Reed, Pat Jannell
  • Prop Runner: Pat Jannell, Shelia Abbot, Elizabeth Huguley
  • Fight Choreography: Kevin Robertson
  • Clown Training: Pat Jannell
  • Publicity: Don Wilson, Troy Caver
  • Cover/Flyer Art: Josh McGuin
  • Programs, Flyers, Postcards: Karla Carias
  • Front of House: Kathryn Sahlberg, Zina Bleck, volunteers
  • Set Posters: Fran Rauch

Disclaimer: Castaway Repertory Theatre provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review. ShowBizRadio editors Mike & Laura Clark were also involved with this production, as sound designer and stage manager respectively, which did not influence this review.

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is an actor, singer, director and writer. She is a relative newcomer to the DC theatrical community. Kari has been performing since she was a little girl in church and began seriously pursuing acting in high school. She is a graduate of Emory & Henry College with a degree in Theater. The favorite part of her theatrical training was her apprenticeship at Barter Theater in Abingdon, Virginia. While at Barter Theatre she was privileged to act on the Main Stage (Eleanor: An American Love Story) and with the Player Company (Frog Prince and Just So Stories Two). Kari is currently concentrating on returning to acting and assisting with drama at her church.

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