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The production of THE TAMING OF THE SHREW at the St. Lawrence Shakespeare Festival is not only funny, it's just plain fun. Director Janet Irwin has set Shakespeare's tale of Petruchio's rambunctious wooing of the shrewish Kate in the 1950s, a period that lends itself to entertaining music and colorful costumes.
Miss Irwin and Music Director Doreen Taylor Claxton have chosen several period songs that fit into the plot. This versatile cast does a great job with the doo-wop style, accompanied only by a single musician expertly plucking the bass line on a cello. They also look as if they're enjoying it as much as the audience.
Andrea Robertson's costumes are just terrific, from the crinolines to the saddle shoes. Hortensio is dressed like an escapee from GUYS AND DOLLS, while Petruchio could have walked right out of a Brando motorcycle pic. I particularly liked Bianca's milk-shake container and Kate's glasses, and I'm sure there are no red sneakers left in the area.
This is truly an ensemble cast. Malcolm Scott is the perfect embodiment of a cop and Michael MacDonald does a nice job as a slightly John Cleesian Vincentio. As Biondello, Charlotte Gowdy is very good, especially on her startling first entrance. As Curtis, Emma Hunter is fine and is hilarious as the tailor. She definitely makes something out of not much!
As one of Bianca's suitors, Greg Kramer is excellent and just doddery enough. As Hortensio, Bianca's other suitor, although he's younger than the role is usually cast, Kris Joseph is such a fine actor he makes it work. The hat and the tie help!
John Koensgen gives a solid three-dimensional performance as Baptista, the long-suffering father of Kate and Bianca. Speaking of Bianca, Lana Sugarman's performance is overly sweet, periodically whiny and wonderfully spoiled.
Alix Sideris as Kate and Craig Walker as Petruchio have great chemistry together. We can see their mutual attraction building in the wonderful sun and moon scene. In her final speech Miss Sideris does such a brilliant job with the subtext that it works for a contemporary audience. Mr. Walker's reaction adds to the effect. We really like this well-matched couple.
Janet Irwin has done a terrific job of finding a fresh approach to the play. Not only does her concept work, but all the little touches such as the tablecloth choreography and the giggle-making entrance of Petruchio's cooks add a great deal. She even manages to work in the limbo. Even with the hilarity and surprises, the play isn't obscured but made more clear.
This entertaining production is certainly worth a trip to Prescott, not to mention ice cream and a couple of hours in a beautiful setting by the river.
On a scale of one to five the St. Lawrence Shakespeare Festival production of THE TAMING OF THE SHREW gets four and a half buoys. For North Country Public Radio I'm Connie Meng.