It is a well-proven theory that a great deal of Shakespeare’s works are timeless and thus changing the setting into a more modern era of history works well. However, Cincinnati Shakespeare Company had its work cut out for them when trying to tackle the issue of proving “The Taming of The Shrew” still had a viable message for the people of today.
While most people know the gist of the story, not everyone may remember this particular comedy is set up with a “framing device.” In the original source, a mischievous nobleman tricks a tinker into believing he is actually a nobleman himself. The play is then performed for the tinker as a diversion. Because I am never one to spoil things, I will not get into the details except to applaud the way CSC kept the play itself in its original time period and made the framing device modern-day. It was a very smart choice to perform the play as originally written, but to have the text punctuated with modern points of view. Brava to Director Jemma Alix Levy to keeping things fresh! Ms. Levy is quickly rising on this reviewer’s list of favourite directors.
Production Team for “The Taming of the Shrew”
It is no surprise Scenic Director Samantha Reno comes through again with an absolutely impeccable set. Complemented beautifully with choices made by Lighting Designers Chris Holloway and Robert Carlton Stimmel, it is not only aesthetically stunning, but very effective with its use of so many doors and windows and levels. (It is particularly fun to see the juxtaposition between the way Darnell Pierre Benjamin and Billy Chace navigate the space as characters of differing mobility.) Be sure to pay particular attention to the courtyard–just gorgeous!
And speaking of aesthetics, Costume Designer Kristina Sneshkoff does not disappoint in her CSC debut. Each piece is clearly tailored to the individual figures of the many actors who tell this tale. Particular costume choice of note: Katherine’s sullied wedding gown (insert a “chef’s kiss” here). Wig Stylist Amanda Winters also deserves a special shout-out here as her work is skillful and serves as the perfect crowning achievement to several actors’ looks.
The Performers at Cincy Shakes
Truth be told, it is very difficult to pinpoint anyone actor’s performance as anything but excellent. What a wonderful problem to have! Torie Wiggins as Baptista is the perfect combination of frustrated, loving, and authoritative. Anyone would do well to take lessons on how Ms. Wiggins enters a room; she is regal to the nth degree while still being approachable. Newcomer (to CSC) Josh Innerst’s Petruchio is everything it should be and more: he’s handsome, energetic, and shrewd. Mr. Innerst also adeptly taps in to the side of Petruchio that is endearing which is no small task.
Any praise you shall hear about Sara Mackie’s interpretation of Katherina will only be a fraction of the truth: rest assured she is even better than best. In Ms. Mackie’s Opening Night toast, she spoke of how rare it is to find a leading lady role like this one – so it is only fitting that she takes it and runs with it. Her facial expressions, her vocal inflections, and her choices in physicality with every step she takes all add up to a flawless performance. It is easy to see why she was cast as Kate The Cursed.
Tickets to “The Taming of the Shrew” at Cincy Shakes
Even if you have seen a performance of “Taming” in the past, I recommend you take the time out to head down to the Otto M. Budig Theater. Cincy Shakes has assembled a heck of a company for this amusing narrative and it is worth experiencing. Further, if you run into the beautiful and talented Maggie Lou Rader, a CSC darling, be sure to wish her well on the next leg of her artistic journey as she closes the chapter on this one. We love you, Maggie Lou! “The Taming of the Shrew” presented by Cincinnati Shakespeare Company runs through March 25th. Tickets can be purchased online by going here: https://cincyshakes.com/event/taming/.