The Shrewing of the Tamed

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Courtesy Capital Fringe Festival
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Editorial Review

Capital Fringe Festival: Unruly Women’s ‘Shrewing of the Tamed’

By Nelson Pressley
Sunday, July 17, 2011

“Shrewing of the Tamed” is a very busy cut-down of Shakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew,” aiming to wrestle the famous battle of the sexes into submission in just over an hour. That’s plenty to bite off, but this show also takes on the introductory scene that even full-length productions usually leave out.

This Fringe production by Unruly Women (not to be confused with Disreputable Women, the group doing David Mamet’s “Boston Marriage”) dives in with a mere five actors, all of them doubling. It’s a boisterous staging, and the young cast, with William and Mary pedigrees, does a lot of bellowing as the actors try to animate Shakespeare’s famous taunts and spats.

So it’s kind of a raw 70 minutes, yet at key moments you can tell the attack has been thought through. How do you make sense of the adversarial and then affectionate relationship between Petruchio (the cad looking for a wife to make him wealthy) and Kate, the reputed shrew? The performance finds their middle ground, the places where he gives and she understands.

It also makes nice use of puppets, not as a technique but as an image, as Kate finds herself unpleasantly strung up. The show has firm ideas about that tricky final speech of Kate’s, too — the one about obedience that we moderns always finesse. The troupe members nearly always work too hard at the comedy, but their problem-solving is just about bright enough to see the show through.