American Players Theatre
5950 Golf Course Road
P.O. Box 819
Spring Green, WI 53588
Box Office: 608-588-2361
Lindsay Christians | The Capital Times | October 18, 2021
Is “The Taming of the Shrew” a love story?
Rarely in live theater have I craved a rewind button as much as I did at American Players Theatre’s new production, a quick-witted, surprising rendition of a play I was perfectly content to never see again.
This one I might need to see again, just to catch it all. Director Shana Cooper’s wild adaptation, running in the Touchstone Theatre through Nov. 14, makes a case for the conclusion I’ve always found implausible — that Kate and Petruchio are honestly, improbably meant for each other.
Known for can’t-miss-it misogyny and providing inspiration for Cole Porter’s “Kiss Me Kate,” Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew” packs so much problematic male behavior into its iambic pentameter, it can be hard to laugh even when the lines are funny.
Cooper, who teaches at Northwestern University and is a company member at Woolly Mammoth in Washington, D.C., gets it. She opens “Shrew” with a groovy dance pantomime in which all the actors, men and women alike, are mustachioed like ’70s Tom Selleck.
It’s hilarious, and frames the show as high comic melodrama. Later, she pulls in references from “Sold (the Grundy County Auction Incident)” (a ’90s country classic — is this play inside my brain?) to “Jersey Shore” and Crocs.
“The Taming of the Shrew” has been adapted and updated dozens of times (remember “Ten Things I Hate About You?”). It’s one of Shakespeare’s most-produced comedies. A quick recap:
A rich Italian guy has two daughters, Kate (Alejandra Escalante) and Bianca. Kate figures she’ll lose what little agency and independence she has if she marries, so she’s not into it, and her reputation among the men in town isn’t great. “Fiend of hell,” they call her, “renown’d in Padua for her scolding tongue.”
Everybody loves the younger sister, but dad won’t let Bianca marry until Kate does. Bianca has three suitors, two of whom are played by Casey Hoekstra in what looks like a gold lamé suit. Enter cocky, recently orphaned Petruchio (Daniel José Molina), who’s “come to wive it wealthily in Padua.” Kate has money so she’s the girl for Petruchio, even before he meets her. Cue the fireworks.