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Wednesday, September 22,2010

Shaky Shakespeare

Shaky Shakespeare ’Shrew’ doesn’t shine

by Tom Helma
Perchance thee doth recall Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew.”

Written over 400 years ago, ’tis regurgitated yet one more time by the newly minted Bach Dor Shakespeare Co., which promises us they will follow the so-called “original practices” utilized in the era of the Bard.


For those of you not familiar with this overly familiar tale of misogyny, “Shrew” is the simple story of Baptista, a father who sells his tempestuous eldest daughter to the aging Petruchio, a wealthy merchant, who “tames” (read: abuses) and thereby transforms this fiery female into a loving Stepford wife.


Exaggerative interpretive license on the part of an overzealous critic?


The sheer excitement of such an innovative idea is matched completely by the originality of the “practices,” which include leaving the house lights on and no set to speak of.


As to the modern-era clothing choices — contemporary suits and dresses — that’s more a matter of economics, and one cannot help but wonder if “original practices” is nothing more than an explanation for no money to allocate to set and costumes or lighting, which leaves us with the bare stage and the actors themselves.


Bach Dor founder Randy Matthews directs these actors careening hither and yon across the cavernous Albert White Theater stage of the Hannah Community Center in East Lansing with daring aplomb. This cast moves all over the place and not without some dramatic effect.


Matthews— playing both as the servant, Grumio, and Vincentio, the father of Lucentio — has learned the cadences of Shakespearean English well and demonstrates a good sense of how a Shakespearean character is supposed to act.


The rest of the cast doesn’t fare quite so well. Although they know their lines and articulate them clearly enough to be heard, the performers lack a sense of dynamic tension between one character and the next.


This is particularly true of the central characters, Petruchio, portrayed by Michael Hays, and Bridezilla Katharina, played by Trisha Koslowski. Hays is all bombast
in this role, more in the no-nonsense style of William Shatner than in
the more nuanced style of Richard Burton. Koslowski has all the seedy
charm of a real Jersey
Shore housewife, right down to her beehive hairdo and bitter
bitchiness. As to an underlying provocative sexual chemistry between
these two characters, forget about it — nothing happening here.


Sometimes,
in difficult economic times, we are informed by insensitive
management/administrator types, that “less is actually more.”


This
is no more true in theater than it is in the business world. Lighting
and costumes and a set that clarifies where we are in time are actually
not mere embellishments. Rather they are the equivalent of side courses
that enhance the main meal. Going back to the basics does not suggest
that we dance nude across a bare theater stage.


’The Taming of the Shrew’


7
pm. Friday, Sept. 24; 3 and 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 25; 3 p.m. Sunday,
Sept. 26 Albert White Theater, Hannah Community Center 819 Abbot Rd.,
East Lansing $15 adults; $13 students and seniors; $7 children under 13


(517) 333-2580



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