Kiss Me, Kate – Review by Bonnie Goldberg

Summer Theatre of New Canaan is offering up a dilly of a seasonal treat with Cole Porter’s lively and lyrical “Kiss Me Kate,” a highly entertaining play within a play, all set to music. From now until Sunday, July 29, Waveny Park in New Canaan under the big white tent will be bursting with song and kicking up its dancing heels as a divorced and still angry couple of actors are forced to interact on stage and behind the curtain. This is a revered Shakespeare comedy “The Taming of the Shrew” set in Baltimore in the late 1940’s and you’re invited to join the fun.

“Kiss Me Kate” has a delightful book by Bella and Samuel Spewack, plus all of Cole Porter’s sparkling songs, with all the comedy and choreography you could want. Mary McNulty is both Lilli and Katherine, a woman disdainful of both her real life ex-husband Fred and of her on stage suitor Petruchio, created by a not-to-be-easily dismissed David Sattler. How they torment each other is a joy to behold.

Toss into the mix a lying and gambling dancer Bill (Tim Falter) who signs Fred’s name to an I.O.U. for $10,000, thus putting Fred in the hands of two gangsters, deliciously brought to life by Brett Alters and Brian Silliman. The pair almost bring down the house with their rendition of “Brush Up Your Shakespeare.” A flirtatious and sexy Lois, a sizzling Rachel MacIsaac, plays Kate’s younger sister Bianca who has all the suitors in the world but cannot marry until older sis Kate has a match approved by dad Bradley Mott. Enter Petruchio who is determined to wed well, even if it means taming a shrew like Kate. Tempers ignite as the pair parry and spar, both on and off the stage. A bouquet of flowers, misdelivered, threatens to cause a volcano to erupt.

While both Fred and Lilli have seemed to have moved on romantically, he courting the young, pretty and teasing cast member Lois, and she the prestigious military man General Howell, a macho and motivated Luke Lynch, embers of their love still linger.

In the Bard’s play, Lilli’s Katherine is a tempestuous shrew whom no suitors will court. Bianca sings a delicious “Tom, Dick or Harry” that shows off her excellent marital possibilities. But Bianca can’t wed until Katherine does. When Petruchio arrives on the scene, loudly proclaiming “I’ve Come to Wive It Wealthily in Padua,” the plot to marry him off to the “cursed Kate” is hatched.

Allegra Libonati pulls out all the great gimmicks to make this show a pure pleasure, with Doug Shankman’s energetic choreography, a terrific cast of actors, a versatile set by Julia Noulin-Merat and colorful costuming designed by Arthur Oliver.

For tickets ($40 and up), call the STONC at 203-966-4634 and online at Performances are Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., and Sunday at 4 p.m. Also on the calendar are shows for children, “Peter Pan”, a world premiere through July 29, “James and the Giant Peach” July 7-29 and Balloonacy July 8-29. Times are 10 a.m., 10:30 and 1 p.m. depending on the show, tickets $23 and up. The New Canaan Library will host “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare Abridged,” a comedy presented free outdoors from July 15-29, Saturdays at 3 p.m. and Sundays at 1 p.m. Go to free tickets/

You can’t help being bowled over by this spectacular “wunderbar” performance. It’s too darn hot not to sizzle.