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Irene Poole as Katherina and Evan Buliung as Petruchio in <I>The Taming of the Shrew</I>. Photo: David Hou.
Irene Poole as Katherina and Evan Buliung as Petruchio in The Taming of the Shrew. Photo: David Hou.

Theatre Review: The Taming of the Shrew and Moby Dick at Stratford

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Resident theatre critic Connie Meng is back today with reviews of two of the productions she recently saw at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Ontario - The Taming of the Shrew and Moby Dick. The Taming of the Shrew runs in Stratford through October 25 and Moby Dick through October 18.

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Connie Meng
Theatre Critic

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THE TAMING OF THE SHREW is one of the most frequently produced of Shakespeare's plays, both at Stratford and elsewhere. This production directed by the NAC's Artistic Director Peter Hinton is terrific and most importantly, very funny. Mr. Hinton has used the complete script that sets up the story of Kate and Petruchio as a play within a play that is actually an elaborate practical joke. The play becomes a story of social status as a form of theatrical game.

Performed on the three-quarter thrust stage of the Festival Theatre, Santo Loquasto's clever sets and colorful Elizabethan costumes are well set off by Robert Thomson's lighting. Mr. Hinton has added a great deal of music composed by Allen Cole. Mr. Cole has set nine songs of the period, used them as the basis for the incidental music and best of all it's performed by live musicians.

I've never yet seen a cast at Stratford that wasn't strong and this one is exceptionally well balanced. Mr. Hinton has done a bit of gender-bending and has cast the excellent Lucy Peacock as Petruchio's servant Grumio. She seems to be enjoying herself thoroughly. Ben Carlson makes a very good Tranio while Adrienne Gould as Bianca and Jeff Lillico as Lucentio are appropriately young, goofy and besotted.

The four character men are just plain hilarious - Patrick McManus as the flamboyant Biondello, Randy Hughson as the aggressive but confused Hortensio, Juan Chioran as the pompous and doddering Gremio and best of all the wonderful Stephen Ouimette as the floundering father of Bianca and Kate.

Last but not least Irene Poole is a fiery and intelligent Kate and Evan Buliung plays Petrochio with both strength and humor. This is a terrific production of a terrific play.

Speaking of terrific, my favorite of the five plays I saw is the adaptation of Herman Mellville's MOBY DICK. There have been attempts to stage this story, but they usually fail. This version certainly succeeds. The novel has been adapted and directed by Morris Panych, a Vancouver playwright whose work I admire. MOBY DICK is an ensemble piece in all respects - the creative team, the technicians and the actors.

Performed in the intimate Studio Theatre with a cast of eleven men and three women, it's story-telling at its finest. Set to Debussy's La Mer and with virtually no dialogue, the piece is a combination of movement, dance and acting that leaves no doubt as to what's happening.

The women act as Sirens, but also as the tails of whales. At one point nine sailors climb three giant ladders and at a crescendo in the music, pull their shirts up over their heads to become the sails. I get goose-bumps trying to describe it.

I'm not going to mention any names, as I'd have to include everyone in the program. Suffice it to say Morris Panych's production of MOBY DICK is a truly creative piece of theatre magic. If you can get to Stratford this fall, don't miss it.

On a scale of one to five the Stratford Festival production of THE TAMING OF THE SHREW gets four swans and a ducks and that of MOBY DICK gets five swans. For North Country Public Radio I'm Connie Meng.

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