Saturday, July 26, 2008

First and Second Impressions on the GRSF's Taming

The Taming of the Shrew.  Dir. Alec Wild.  Perf. Christopher Gerson, Tarah Flanagan, Jonathan Gillard Daly, Chris Hirsch, Zachary Michael Fine, Doug Scholz-Carlson, Carla Noack, Chris Mixon, Evan Fuller, Bob Fairbrook, Andrew Carlson, Brian David Frederick, Donte Fitzgerald, David Rudi Utter, and Nicole Rodenburg. Great River Shakespeare Festival. Winona, Minnesota. 2008.
First Impression: Brilliant.

Second Impression: Also Brilliant.

The Great River Shakespeare Festival does Shakespeare well.  Their productions are personal, intimate, clever, and thought-provoking without being weird or badly-acted.

They also do enough Shakespeare—I only wish I had also been able to see their Merchant of Venice and the Pericles put on by the Apprentice Project. Next year, I intend to see everything they offer (and I'd recommend that you do the same).

I also regret not being able to see the show earlier in the run.  The show has now closed, so I'm unable to promote the 2008 season with the enthusiasm it deserves (though I can write about it enthusiastically and promote the 2009 season with great expectations).

The production gave us a Shrew of the broadest farce. The set contained metal-framed pillars that the actors could climb to observe the action—and also to play any one of a huge number of percussion instruments. Slide whistles, drums, and clackers accompanied the slapstick action.

I think it was a good choice for this play. The audience was persuaded from the start that nothing of any real consequence was going to take place in the world of the play. Thus, Katherine's striking Petruchio (and her re-striking him on his line "I'll swear I'll cuff you if you strike again," against which he had no strong response) was accompanied with sound effects. The effect of the effects was to lessen the repercussions of the physical violence for which the play calls.

The characters, after all, are from the Commedia delle'arte.  But, in Shakespeare, even stock characters like the Pantaloon seldom remain two-dimensional.  This production gave us that, too.

Katherine, who was not very often very shrewish, effectively demonstrated that the shrew in her was (mostly) a public persona.

Petruchio, who seemed to find his own actions as distasteful as a member of a modern audience might, was grasping at straws and playing it by ear through most of the play.  It was an intriguing interpretation.

In a future post, I'd like to comment more fully on these very effective moments in the play:
  • Clearing the stage for Kate and Petruchio's first encounter
  • Using sound effects—with both percussion and voice
  • Foregrounding the idea of playing games
  • Having Petruchio address the audience directly
In the meantime, set aside June and July of 2009 so you won't miss a moment of the glory that is The Great River Shakespeare Festival!

Links: The Festival's Cool Website.

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Bardfilm is normally written as one word, though it can also be found under a search for "Bard Film Blog." Bardfilm is a Shakespeare blog (admittedly, one of many Shakespeare blogs), and it is dedicated to commentary on films (Shakespeare movies, The Shakespeare Movie, Shakespeare on television, Shakespeare at the cinema), plays, and other matter related to Shakespeare (allusions to Shakespeare in pop culture, quotes from Shakespeare in popular culture, quotations that come from Shakespeare, et cetera).

Unless otherwise indicated, quotations from Shakespeare's works are from the following edition:
Shakespeare, William. The Riverside Shakespeare. 2nd ed. Gen. ed. G. Blakemore Evans. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997.
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