Performing Arts: Theater
June 26, 2016
Oh woe is he who crosses Kate and thinks the day is won. This year's first Free Shakespeare in the Park took Shakespeare's feisty play "The Taming of the Shrew" and flipped tradition inside out. Where once the itinerant theater troupes of old England were all male ensembles, this cast was all female. The noticeable male was Shakespeare's words.

The genial mixed race cast was led by a cocky Petruchio coolly rendered by Janet McTeer, duly throwing rock 'n roll swagger off her long, lean body. Her intended "slave" I mean matrimonial project, Katherina (Cush Jumbo), turned in an equally fierce performance. Trimmed to 1:45 which many appreciate when sitting in Central Park, the mighty Kate and Petruchio's wrangling is snipped to a bare few bouts of vitriol and verbal arm wrestling. Understandably, director Phyllida Lloyd likely assumed the point was made, particularly since the audience might reject the notion of a woman succumbing to a man's demands for a morsel of food let alone a wedding day.

An undeniably game cast keeps the action percolating. Dressed in a mix of Texan and 1950's Italian village fare, the all female cast rarely betrays a bit of incongruity. When the audience settles in, announcements start blaring identifying one beauty contestant after another strutting to the mellifluous recorded voice of Donald Trump. And the fairest of them all is Bianca (Gayle Rankin) Kates's sister. Blond and pretty, soft and faintly, she's the one all the men adore. But the smart father demands Kate, the shrewish sister, be wed fist. This of courses sets the problem.

A funky jazz combo breaks out in hip shaking rhythms. This makes for easy viewing, but some of the original sharpness is fluffed up.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

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