Review by Danny Gaisin
Shakespeare’s perpetually cherished comedy – ‘The Taming of The Shrew’ is one of this scribe’s favorites (& I have my wife’s permission to say so) although, the theme deals with the subjugation of womanhood; especially one’s spouse. We’ve seen this particular play numerous times over the past few years; including the original, & Patrick Young’s ‘Taming of the Tamer’ version at Erindale. So; why another critique? McMaster Thespian Company’s director Jenn Helsdon is presenting an on-stage thesis about how the control struggle is eternal but even with the troughs & crests of equality; manipulation always remains an intrinsic element.
Through the vehicle of evolving fashion- from togas to miniskirts, the progression of society is unsubtly emphasized. Using a basic set with only minor prop changes, it is the characters and their portrayers that delineate the plot line. The pivotal role is Katherina Minola:- the harridan of the piece. As oldest daughter, she must be married off before the much desired Bianca can say yes to one of her many suitors. Sarah Granger IS so much more of a Kate than even her on-stage sister – Kate Sinclair! From Granger’s first scowling moment on stage we realize that this is going to be no pushover taming job. To paraphrase the Gershwin’s:- “ she may be small, but Oh My! ♪” Feisty is a euphemistic representation of her portrayal. As her protagonist Petruchio; Christian Cullis abdicates the usual arrogant & charismatic BMOC oversize-cojoned type; for a determined but non-exceptional male. This makes his reading more human and identifiable.
Among daughter no. 2’s suitors are the past-due dated Gremio; and young Lucentio and Hortensio, both of whom utilize the requisite disguises. Their portrayers are Evan Hookong-Taylor; Sage Hyden & Gavin Mast, respectively. All three contribute full thespian efforts into their role interpretations, but Hyden needs some serious dialogue-projection work. Meter means “woe to___the hand___that shed____this cost-____ly blood”! Your Act III 1st scene line is not “fiddlerforbearyougrowtooforwardsir” unless you’re doing a commercial over-read with the list of available retail outlets for CLR™.
In this TOTS incarnation, director Helsdon has given the best scene-stealing opportunities to the servant class. As Tranio, Andrew Haddon demonstrates an instinct for zinger-line timing and vocal emphasis. Carissa Kaye’’s Biondello has all the impishness and attention-grabbing talent of a successful ‘Puck’ or Sancho Panza! Petruchio’s Grumio is Zac Williams and he has a stand-up improv’s innate talent for facial reaction and again unequivocal timing.
Taming of the Shrew may be the epitome of misogynism, but let’s be real folks; aren’t all of us males – subjugators (even in just our imaginations) of the weaker sex? So, seeing it on stage affords us the politically correct opportunity to laugh publicly without worrying about recourse when wifey gets us home. KATE & Company will be at Mac’s Robinson Hall until Apr. 6th.