Taming of the Shrew
Poor People Are Hilarious!
The Taming of the Shrew is the world's most famous play about starving your wife into submission. To commemorate 20 years of performing free Shakespeare plays in Puget Sound parks, Seattle Shakespeare Company has relaunched its popular trailer-park-themed rendition for a limited indoor run.
By most metrics, the production is a hit: David Quicksall's cocky Petruchio is the perfect foil to Kelly Kitchens's breathtaking Kate, and the supporting cast brings the robust physical comedy to life with enough grabbing, slapping, and swatting of asses to fell thespians with more delicate posteriors. A farcical death scene by Biondello (Brandon Ryan) stopped the show with its own round of applause.
The only problem I had with the comedy—other than Kate's earnest "submit to your husbands" speech, which I guess can't be helped—came from its setting. I understand the allure of launching a redneck revamp of Shrew. Designers can steal ideas straight off the set of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, and characters are free to indulge in weird, stereotypical eccentricities (aging beauty queens, mesh-shirt-wearing army veterans). Hey, it's a trailer park! People are wacky!
But such a production has to be careful to avoid abjectly mocking the poor. There's no need to use poor people for comic relief, especially when the production is no longer launched in a park (i.e., free! Accessible!) but costs $40 a ticket in a rich city that gets the vapors at the very mention of affordable-housing aPodments, let alone trailer parks.
Unfortunately, Shrew fails this bar in the opening of its second act, when we journey into Petruchio's home and meet his servants—dirty, cross-eyed, drooling, derrrrr-ing idiots who live under blue tarps and collectively can't manage to fetch a glass of water without spilling it. In this scene, poverty equals stupidity, and it's at this point that Shrew lost me.