The men of Shakespeare's day ruled the roost. If they were around now, they'd be lords of the couch with a monopoly on the remote control. They would never load the dishwasher, and their wives would be at their beck and call. But even in his less-civilized day, Shakespeare was smart enough to notice that not all women were happy with the assigned gender roles. Some of them even fought back with biting tongues. Like Taming of the Shrew's Kate.
Kate doesn't want to get married, and she's mad that her younger sibling Bianca has suitors swarming around her. She makes her displeasure known by slapping the wooers, tying up her sis, and even disrespecting her dad. Someone needs to tame her — someone as stubborn as she is. Fortunately, a gentleman of Verona is strapped for cash and just desperate enough to marry her in exchange for a tempting dowry.
Producer/director JC Conway (The Blue Room) has assembled an assortment of different types and ages of actors for this play. Considering his limited resources, the production is ambitious. He only has a few pieces of furniture and a couple of green boxes to convey multiple cities, streets, and houses. Costumes are part Elizabethan, part TJ Maxx. But the language, the story, and the character relationships are developed in a clear and entertaining fashion.
Some of the actors in this production are testing their chops, seeing if they can handle Shakespeare. Others, perhaps, are just excited to add the Bard to their resumes. Fortunately, the rhythm of the dialogue keeps them on track as they hurtle through this well-worn comedy. Conway aims to make this 400-year-old farce as accessible as possible, with slapstick, swordplay, and even a scene with some audience interaction.
Conway boldly casts a woman in the role of the lusty lout Petruchio. Laura Rose's casting as Kate's date cleverly overcomes the dangers of staging a sexist taming-a-woman play. She plays Petruchio with great passion, immediately striking up a good rapport with the audience. The shrew is energetically played by Carole Moore, who retains a mean-girl scowl through most of the show. Kate's sister Bianca is portrayed by Annie Powell, who doesn't have the energy of her fellow actors. That's excusable, since she's supposed to be playing a winsome, relatively passive character, but she's a lot more fun when she falls in love and livens up in the second act.
Taming of the Shrew. May 13-15, 8:30 p.m. $15, $10/students. South of Broadway Theatre, 1080 East Montague Ave. (843) 343-6560. theatreverv.org