By Michael Mell
The Taming of the Shrew is one of Shakespeare’s more popular plays and the reason is amply demonstrated by the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival at Boscobel this summer. While all the Festival’s productions have the virtue of making 400-year old English comprehensible, this production excels. The acting, directing and entire production make the dialog immediately accessible; as though 21st century English was being spoken. At the same time the poetry of the language is not sacrificed.
Brought forward in time to the 1960’s, the show benefits from references to that decade. Director Kurt Rhoads says that his inspiration for the production was “an image of Kate burning her bra, a feminist voice stamping her feet and shouting for change.” This becomes a literal as well as conceptual event for the play. At the same time Kate’s final speech reminding “women on what duty they owe their husbands” has her completely reversing direction. How much of this change can be attributed to her “tamer” Petruccio, is left an open question. Her sister Bianca, on the other hand, follows an opposite arc from implicit acceptance of the status quo to rejection: much to the surprise of her suitor, Lucentio. Hortensio, an aged suitor of Kate, who settles for a dour spinster doesn’t appear to know which end is up. Between the three thrives much comedy, irony, mistaken identity, hysterical vulgarity, in-your-face costumes, funky songs and some certain amount of truth.
In another time shift, this time to 2010, Mr. Rhoads has employed the talents of singer/song-writer and Cold Spring resident Dar Williams. We hear Kate describing her feelings and speaking Shakespeare’s words, set seamlessly to Dar’s music. Played live on guitar during the performance by Mikaela Krantz the music is mesmerizing and takes the audience into Kate’s soul.
The Taming of the Shrew plays in repertory with Troilus and Cressida and the Bombitty of Errors though September 5 at Boscobel, on Rte 9D in Cold Spring.