By John Baggett
One of my favorite things about drama is the dialogue. To listen to wonderfully crafted dialogue expertly delivered by talented actors is up there with the best music. Few wrote dialogue as William Shakespeare and Tyler Civic Theatre is bringing the Bard’s dialogue to the stage in their production of his classic comedy, “The Taming of the Shrew.”
When suitors come from all around to wed his daughter, Bianca (Emmy Anderson), Baptista (Sean Hollday) refuses anyone her hand in marriage until one thing happens first. Someone must wed his eldest daughter, the difficult and blunt Katherina (Laura D’Eramo). Instead of dissuading Biance’s suitors, this allows them to create a plan – find someone crazy enough to wed Katherina. Fortune favors them upon the arrival of Petruchio (Blake Rohus), who is not bothered by the tales of Katherina’s shrewish nature and instead looks upon it as a challenge.
Petruchio asks Baptista to meet his daughter, who takes no liking to him, only for him to announce that the pair are to be married, whether Katherina likes it or not. With Petruchio now engaged, Bianca’s suitors, Lucentio (Jordan Boyd), Gremio (Cheyenne Whorton), and Hortensio (Jack Ragland) can compete for her hand. However, when Petruchio and Katherina are finally married, he enacts his plan to play any mental games he can to “tame her.”
“The Taming of the Shrew” is directed by Hannah Claire, who previously directed the debut performance of “The Disappearance of Maud Crawford.” This being her second show for TCT, Claire assembled one of the most talented casts of the year, holding its own against big productions like “Singin’ in the Rain.”
While the text of the play is, without a doubt The Bard himself, this version was adapted by Cass Foster as part of the “Sixty Minute Shakespeare” series. Claire and her crew of actors made the show their own by setting it in the 1950s while keeping the dialogue true to Shakespeare, which was a brilliant idea. The unique setting allows for the already controversial nature of the play to allow the viewer to decide whether or not Shakespeare’s work is feminist or misogynist.
As our titular “shrew,” D’Eramo is absolutely brilliant. She is a commanding presence, and I hope she brings the same energy to future shows. Rohus is absolutely hilarious as Petruchio, returning to the stage after his appearance in “The Great Gatsby.” As our suitors, Boyd, Whorton, and Ragland are wonderful, as always, each getting big laughs that they totally earn. Anderson and Holliday, both veterans now of many Civic productions, hold their own in this huge cast of Very talented people.
Rounding out the cast are Dereck Lange as Tranio, Sara England as Biondello, Mary Henson as Grumio, Kaylee Parker as a Pedant (and wonderfully disguised, I must say), Jonathan Lambach as Vincentio, and, in multiple roles, Ashten Lane and Nadalie Gill. Every one of these actors was fantastic and, like producer Stephen Rainwater said in his introduction of the show, all of them could (and have been) the lead in any show. This show is brimming with talent on stage and off, which always makes my job as a critic easy.
“The Taming of the Shrew” is a perfect show for anyone that loves Shakespeare, hasn’t read any of his works since high school, or hasn’t been exposed to his words at all. Considering the show is only open for a week, I highly suggest you drop whatever you’re doing and go see it.
“The Taming of the Shrew” opens on Thursday, January 17th and runs through Sunday, January 20th at Tyler Civic Theatre, 400 Rose Park Drive. For more information and to purchase tickets, go to http://tylercivictheatre.com/production/2018-2019/the-taming-of-the-shrew-condensed.