Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Review of The Taming of the Shrew at Chicago Shakespeare

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called The Taming of the Shrew. It was by William Shakespeare and it was conceived and directed by Barbara Gaines. The Columbia Women's Club scenes were by Ron West. It was about The Columbia Women's Club putting on their annual play, The Taming of The Shrew, losing one of their cast members and gaining another, and their ideas about women's suffrage. I think this is a really fun and eye-opening play. It made me think of the The Taming of The Shrew in a whole new way and made me realize you don't have to accept the sexist ending.

This play sort of takes place in two different worlds: Shakespeare's play and the Women's Club. You get to see the women's feelings about the play through little chunks in between scenes, which I think actually added a lot to the play because all these women's views are changing, not only about this play, but about women's rights in general. You can see people becoming a little more uncomfortable about their lines and a little less certain that what they are saying is right. At the end of the play, when Katherine (Alexandra Henrikson) gives her submission speech, you can sense everyone in the room start to get more uncomfortable and feel more depressed. I was like, "Oh no. This is going to be the saddest ending of all time." But instead they still tried to resolve things in the frame narrative. I think it did help to not leave everyone thinking "Feminism is hopeless; men are terrible." It left me thinking more about some of the things women did accomplish by displaying how they felt.

I think there were a lot of really great performances in this. I thought Henrikson did a great job showing her arc in both her role as Katherine and as Louise Harrison, who plays Katherine. Crystal Lucas-Perry played Mrs. Victoria Van Dyne and that character playing Petruchio, and those two characters were so different and played so well. I hated Petruchio so much when he was being mean to his wife, who didn't even want to be his wife. He was unappreciative but also a straight-up sexist. Kate Marie Smith, who played Olivia Twist and that character playing Lucentio, seemed so gallant and heroic as Lucentio. She made the part not just a boring dude who is in love with a pretty lady. I really liked Olivia Washington as Emily Ingersoll and that character playing Bianca. You got to see not only Bianca's arc, but Emily's of breaking away from her mother and becoming her own person. Bianca refusing to come to her husband when asked was kind of a parallel to how Emily had just broken away from her mother, which I think was a super interesting parallel. I think Lillian Castillo was really great comic relief as Lucinda James and Biondello. She also had a really great mustache for Biodello. When Biondello noticed that the real Vincentio (Cindy Gold) was actually there, and it wasn't the fake one (Ann James), his reaction was just priceless.

I think this show had some really great visual aspects as well. The set (by Kevin Depinet) was really magnificent. I loved the huge arch that was at the entryway and the glass door; it was all very 20s and reminded me a lot of the Newberry Library. The costumes (Susan E. Mickey) were also really cool. I loved how they used their bloomers as the breeches because they'd lost most of their costumes. I loved how they matched to the dresses they were already wearing. I thought that was really funny. And a way they produced a funny moment out of the bloomers was when Elizabeth Nicewander (James) wandered in and saw that everyone was taking on their skirts. At first she was shocked, but then she was like "Oh. Oh well." and just took off her skirt.

People who would like this show are people who like new takes on classics, great acting, and bloomers. I think that people should definitely go see this show. I have never seen The Taming of The Shrew like this before, and I really loved it.

Photos: Liz Lauren

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