Theater

Taming of the Shrew

Poor People Are Hilarious!

Taming of the Shrew

Chris Bennion

"Gimmie the remote, bitch! I wanna change the channel!"

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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. recommended

 

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1
Oh shut up. You obviously liked the show but felt you had to complain about something because you write for The Stranger. The servants would have been poor and are WRITTEN as a bit bumbling. You are the absolute worst theatre reviewer of an already week staff.
Posted by Patrick7991 on May 1, 2013 at 8:26 AM · Report this
2
Dude. If you're going to criticize someone's writing you should probably spell "weak" correctly.
Posted by narverella1911 on May 1, 2013 at 10:15 AM · Report this
3
It was an auto correct mistake because I wrote that on my phone. Anyway, I'll take a spelling error over a poorly constructed review any day. "I enjoyed the show so a third of the article will go to that and the other two thirds will go towards my soap box on the one thing I had a problem with. And I'll just avoid talking about any of the show's technical elements because I don't know shit about theatre."
Posted by Patrick7991 on May 1, 2013 at 11:33 AM · Report this
4
You wouldn't happen to be associated with the show in any way would you?
Posted by lucidity on May 1, 2013 at 3:10 PM · Report this
5
Theatre makes fun of rich people all the time - Why can't it do the same for poor people? Why can't theatre be an equal-opportunity offender?
Posted by Dingle Berries on May 1, 2013 at 3:39 PM · Report this
6
No, I'm not involved in the production, I just like a theatre review that spends at least half of it's words, you know, reviewing theatre. It's fine to have issues with a particular aspect of the show but to spend over half of the article on that while ignoring almost everything else is amateurish. This is like a review of Romeo & Juliet devolving into a rant about how serious teen suicide is.
Posted by Patrick7991 on May 2, 2013 at 5:48 AM · Report this
Cienna Madrid 7
@1, yes, I did like the show. That doesn't prevent me from pointing out its problematic aspects--that's basically the definition of "critique."

The dynamics of a play set in a trailer park transform when you dramatically switch venues, as was done here, and that makes a few scenes, where characters' poverty and stupidity was especially hammed up, feel really thoughtless. And thought provoking. And worth talking about.

I'm sorry disagree so stridently.
Posted by Cienna Madrid on May 2, 2013 at 12:09 PM · Report this
8
This review is so very very Seattle.
Posted by xljbuyvlh on May 2, 2013 at 7:59 PM · Report this
McJulie 9
I saw it last night -- agree with you on its strengths -- but feel like all of my objections stem directly from the source material.

I didn't see the scenes in Petruchio's home as specifically mocking the poor -- they're a homeless encampment in the woods, and Petruchio treating them as his "servants," and their poor performance as such, seemed like it was all part of his elaborate joke/deception put on for Kate's benefit.
Posted by McJulie on May 3, 2013 at 8:32 AM · Report this

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