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The Taming of the Shrew                  Shakespeare Santa Cruz, 2004

Christa Martin - Good Times Santa Cruz

In the heart of the Sinsheimer-Stanley Festival Glen, the opening performance of The Taming of the Shrew proved many things about Shakespeare Santa Cruz.  Slim funds or full financial bellies, the company will reward its audiences regardless of any hurdles it has to tackle.  In addition, artistic director Paul Whitworth, with his deep accent and grandiose persona, is back after a two-year sabbatical with more verve than before.

Taming transforms what many would consider an archaic story of females “submitting” to their husbands, into a contemporary analysis of gender roles and marriage.  Blending equal amounts of comedy with wit, intellect, stellar acting, vivid costumes and perfect direction, this show is a new SSC favorite.

The tale follows Baptista Minola (Dominic Hoffman), who has two daughters, one a belle, the other a beast.  The “beast” or shrew, Kate (Blaire Chandler), must be married before her sister, Bianca (Morgan Davis).  No one wants to marry Kate…  As with other Shakespeare plays, someone pretends to be someone else, confusion ensues, drama unfolds, laughter is elicited and everything gets resolved.  With Taming, the story ends abruptly, leaving the audience wanting more and wanting to know what happens next.  Was Kate really tamed?  Was it all a facade? Does she live happily and submissively ever after with her Petruchio? …

Taming, directed by Tim Ocel, is wickedly and deliciously funny.  Ocel’s staging takes his audience into the world that exists on stage.  The audience “goes there” with Kate as she travels up and down the hill that defines her role as a woman and a wife.  As Kate, Chandler delivers the star performance of the show.  Her anger seethes, her passion is fierce.  She fully embodies the role and it is a pleasure to watch her every twitch and reaction.

Kudos goes to the entire acting company, however.  As an ensemble, the 29 actors work seamlessly together, just like the professionals they should be.  Although the thespians gain the most fame in any theatrical production, it is their support system that helps them perform so well.

Costumes by B. Modem never go unnoticed. She dresses the casts of both Taming and Tamer and her work, as always, is luscious.  The cast of Taming is covered with her creations, two of which deserve special notation: Kate’s brilliant pink and purple gown that she wears after being tamed, and Petruchio’s wedding getup in which he wears a camouflage-inspired military outfit of sorts, with chunks of flowers arranged here and there upon him.  Kate is a jaw-dropping sight, Petruchio a comical one.  Kate Edmunds, scenic designer for Taming offers a two-story, powerful gray-colored set that serves as both the homes of Petruchio and Baptista.  It’s a multi-functional, sturdy backdrop, built to house all the drama and comedy.

Taming has been built on something strong: a play by the greatest wordsmith, Shakespeare. Combined with the visions of Whitworth and Ocel, and an impressive cast, this is a standout if not memorable tale about equality.

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Robertson Dean

The Taming of the Shrew


Shakespeare Santa Cruz


Photo: r.r. jones