'Taming' a Disappointment

By Roz Friedman

I have seen William Shakespeare’s plays performed in every kind of setting: outdoors, indoors, in exquisite traditional set and costume, in modern dress, and in a combination of both.   However, the one thing I demand is that productions stick to the script. The Bard’s plot and words are sacrosanct. 

I had been urged to attend the Summer Theatre of New Canaan, run by the Libonati family, which holds its performances under a white tent in Waveny Park. The first production of their season is The Taming of the Shrew.  Despite some clearly enunciated acting from a hardworking and athletic cast, directed well by Allegra Libonati, and costumed creatively by Arthur Oliver, is ultimately a disappointment. On the cover of the playbill, under the title, it says, “A Comedy that has raged on for over 400 years.” If that is the case, why does this production change the opening scene? If it is for shock value, then it works. But it is not necessary. The eclectic themes including traditional, hip-hop and jazz creates a mishmash of erratic interpretation.   

On a positive note, Katharine Malak is dynamic as Kate; Marc Perlman is pleasantly authoritative as Baptista, who holds down the fort as the much-beleagured father; Omen Sade moves well, and seems to be right in the groove as Tranio, and several other parts. Dorothy Abrahams is stunning as the Tailor, the Widow, and the servant.     

Patrick Lynch’s very spare black and white set design, lit brightly by Jonathan Whitsett, is punctuated by balloons. Where the set fails is when Petruchio drags his new wife, Kate, to his country home. Surely they could have done a better job of decorating with rags, instead of yellow police tape. To his credit, the Sound by David Turner is outstanding.        

Beware: Even though it is New Canaan, and parking is right next door at the beautiful modern high school, the setting is rustic. There are uncomfortable bridge chairs, and “porta potties” instead of bathrooms. 

The Taming of the Shrew will play at The Summer Theatre of New Canaan thru 7/11.
This review first aired on WMNR 88.1FM FINE ARTS RADIO


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