The Taming of the Shrew OFF-BROADWAY REVIEWS




  • AP



Opening Night:
March 17, 2012
April 20, 2012

Theater: Duke on 42nd Street / 229 West 42nd Street, New York, NY, 10036


Fresh from her triumphs with the tragedies of Othello and Macbeth starring John Douglas Thompson, Theatre for a New Audience's associate artistic director Arin Arbus turns to comedy. For Ms. Arbus, in The Taming of the Shrew, "Shakespeare depicts a rough world where everyone is out for themselves -- scheming, fooling and hiding beneath disguises. Kate and Petruchio are the only characters who see things as they are. The play is an intimate, brutal, hilarious negotiation between a husband and wife about the terms of their contract, about their respective roles and responsibilities. What's remarkable about their relationship is not that they fight, but that through their wars, they find love and mutual admiration. As Harold Bloom writes 'Kate and Petruchio...are clearly going to be the happiest married couple in Shakespeare.'"

  • NEW YORK TIMES REVIEW OF The Taming of the Shrew

    Petruchio Is a Woman, and Courtship Is a Beauty Pageant, in This ‘Taming of the Shrew’

    Ben Brantley

    June 13, 2016: Everybody runs wild in Phyllida Lloyd’s riotous, all-female production of “The Taming of the Shrew,” which opened with a rebel yell at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park on Tuesday night. But don’t mistake freedom of movement for freedom itself. These frenzied folks are all living in a state of captivity, whether they know it or not. It seems utterly apt when the tamer of the title, Petruchio (the fabulous Janet McTeer), shows up for his wedding day with a pair of pink handcuffs dangling from his wrist. Of course, at this point, he doesn’t understand just how much the joke is on him. Since this is a play about courtship, you might be tempted to call its inhabitants prisoners of love. But no, they’re prisoners of sex. I mean the kind that you have to check in boxes marked “M” and “F” on official documents. In recent years, Ms. Lloyd — the British director whose eclectic stage credits range from “Mamma Mia!” to the Broadway revival of “Mary Stuart” — has proved herself a master of using women to plumb the murk of manliness in Shakespeare. For the Donmar Warehouse in London, she created inspired, all-female productions of “Julius Caesar” and “Henry IV” (which traveled to St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn). These interpretations, set in a women’s prison, cannily used the perceptible distance between actresses and their roles to point out the artificiality of masculine posturing. Such traits, it seemed, could be donned the way a female impersonator might put on false eyelashes and high heels. To say that Ms. Lloyd’s take on “Shrew,” the most notoriously prickly of Shakespeare’s depictions of love as a battlefield, is not as subtle as those earlier ventures is putting it mildly. It’s both sillier and more seriously, overtly political. But this production — which features a vibrant Cush Jumbo as Petruchio’s unwilling bride, Katherina — also uses the idea of theatrical role-playing to suggest how wearing masks can both entrap (in real life) and liberate (on a stage). This is as true for the actresses playing women, whose attire is largely limited to either prom-style or baby-doll dresses, as for those playing men, with their bound breasts, business suits and muscle shirts. (Mark Thompson did the costumes.) Even Ms. McTeer’s Petruchio, who dresses and struts like an aging rock star who’s constantly monitoring his testosterone level, starts to look as if he couldn’t wait to slip into something more comfortable. Though Shakespeare wrote “Shrew” as a play-within-a-play for a drunk named Christopher Sly, Ms. Lloyd has come up with another framing device. That’s a beauty pageant, in which women vie for the title of Miss Padua. Mr. Thompson’s set brings to mind a threadbare traveling circus, with its fading striped bunting and quaint peeling trailers. (Kitschy images of the Madonna-whore dichotomy of womanhood abound throughout.) But there’s something strangely topical about the voice of the unseen M.C., who comments, barker-style, as scantily clad contestants tap-dance, sing and twirl batons. Doesn’t he sound kind of like the man behind the Miss Universe pageant, currently moonlighting as a presidential candidate? This election-year “Shrew” obviously makes no pretense of being nonpartisan. It even features a stand-up routine in which one of the cast members (Judy Gold, as Gremio) steps out of her role (while remaining in character as a man) to comment on the indignity of serving a female director (and perhaps even a female president). But even with such interpolations, Ms. Lloyd’s streamlined “Shrew” (a bouncy two hours, with no intermission) manages to tell Shakespeare’s original tale with briskness and clarity. And without disrupting its governing tone of a carnival-cum-political-rally, it sheds a bright light on patterns of language and behavior in the play. That includes the idea of women — including Katherina and her sister, the pouty Bianca (Gayle Rankin) — as market commodities, to be bought and bargained for. (The show is punctuated with the sight of cash-filled briefcases.) And I had forgotten the extent to which this play uses the common Shakespearean device of people’s pretending to be other people to achieve their goals, a stratagem that acquires new layers when these duplicitous men are portrayed by women. (The joyful cast members, who wear their masculinity without a burlesque wink, include Rosa Gilmore, Adrienne C. Moore, LaTanya Richardson Jackson and Donna Lynne Champlin.) These plot-propelling disguises feed a larger notion of doubleness, which finds its most eloquent embodiment in the lanky person of Ms. McTeer. Known for her virtuosic turns in such classic roles as Nora in “A Doll’s House” (for which she won a Tony Award) and the title character of “Mary Stuart,” Ms. McTeer here gives us a Petruchio who is both a brazen caricature and an unnerving psychological study. From the moment he makes his entrance, fresh from what appears to be yet another one-night stand, this Petruchio clearly relishes being perceived as one wild and crazy guy. But there’s a sense of strain within the swaggering persona. As Petruchio proceeds to woo, marry and subdue (through deprivation and humiliation) the rebellious Katherina, his eyes grow more feverish and uncertain. I found myself thinking of Mark Rylance’s Hamlet, when the prince’s assumed madness seemed to teeter on the abyss of genuine insanity. Ms. McTeer’s Petruchio is an outsize comic portrait, but there’s a glimmer of tragedy in her gaze. Ms. Jumbo, a rising British stage star internationally known for her appearances on “The Good Wife,” finds the natural woman in Katherina. The default anger feels like a perfectly logical response to the way a woman in her time and place is treated. But she also gives us (as much as the truncated text allows) an awareness of Kate’s developing attraction to Petruchio, and you can feel her trying hard to go along with his imperious demands without submerging her own strong personality. She delivers Kate’s always unpalatable final speech, about a wife’s duty to her husband, with an edge of increasingly anguished doubt. “What am I doing here? How did I get here?” she seems to be saying. (In fact, in this production she actually does more or less say that, but never mind.) And in a way, that S.O.S. has been broadcast throughout by everyone onstage, including Petruchio. For the finale, the cast members tear open their shirts and, figuratively or literally, let down their hair for a gleefully angry rendition of Joan Jett’s “Bad Reputation.” Whew! Their relief at finally being unconfined lights up the night.

  • NEW YORK TIMES REVIEW OF The Taming of the Shrew

    A Shakespeare Play Set Where the Buffalo Roam

    Charles Isherwood

    April 3, 2012: The Wild West makes a suitable setting for the brawling romance at the center of “The Taming of the Shrew” in the Theater for a New Audience production at the Duke on 42nd Street. Transplanting Shakespeare comedies to the land of gunslingers and tumbleweeds has become something of a commonplace, it’s true, but this lively production, directed by Arin Arbus (who directed the excellent renditions of “Othello” and “Macbeth” for the same company), treads lightly on conceptual gimmickry and features a frisky dustup between Maggie Siff and Andy Grotelueschen as the pecking lovebirds Kate and Petruchio.

  • NY POST REVIEW OF The Taming of the Shrew

    ‘Shrew’ mastered by a powerful Kate

    Elisabeth Vincentelli

    April 3, 2012: Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew” has such a bad rep that this new production’s program is full of scholarly quotes that basically say, hey, it’s really not as chauvinistic as everybody thinks it is!

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS REVIEW OF The Taming of the Shrew

    Review: 'Shrew' is a fresh take on age-old battle

    Jennifer Farrar

    April 3, 2012: The battle of the sexes is waged anew as "The Taming of the Shrew" by William Shakespeare enjoys a fresh, robust off-Broadway presentation by Theatre for a New Audience at The Duke on 42nd Street.

  • TIME OUT NEW YORK REVIEW OF The Taming of the Shrew

    The Taming of the Shrew

    Adam Feldman

    April 3, 2012: You’ve heard of torture porn? The Taming of the Shrew is torture rom-com. That is not an overstatement. In Shakespeare’s early farce, the swaggering Petruchio (Andy Grotelueschen) breaks the spirit of the headstrong Kate (Maggie Siff) with techniques that include starvation, brainwashing and sleep deprivation: Here is a war of the sexes to which the Geneva Conventions do not apply. By the end of the night, a forward young lady has become the willing slave of a backward man, and she lectures other women about female submission in a speech that could serve as the epigraph for a book about Stockholm syndrome.

  • BACKSTAGE REVIEW OF The Taming of the Shrew

    NY Review" 'The Taming of the Shrew'

    Karl Levett

    April 1, 2012: The final offering of the 2011–12 season by the ever-resourceful Theatre for a New Audience is Shakespeare's "The Taming of the Shrew," set in an American frontier town in the late 19th century. The enterprising director, Arin Arbus, has included the rarely seen "induction," which sets up a framework that has the drunken tinker, Christopher Sly, being treated to a performance of "Shrew," here given by a traveling theatrical troupe. This allows the show to begin with some broad comic strokes that seem perfectly in tune with Donyale Werle's wooden thrust setting and Michael Friedman's piano musical accompaniment, played with barroom brio by Jonathan Mastro. The way-out-West milieu lends itself easily to the knockabout elements of Shakespeare's comedy. Arbus and her cast have great fun in the early scenes in a style that is best described as rollicking.



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