Don't look for Shakespeare in "Taming of the Shrew" as John Crank choreographed it and the Joffrey Ballet danced it on this final weekend of the company's Kennedy Center season. Not only are words absent, but also the play's worlds of meaning. The subject is still "love, honor and obey," yet farce is the order of the day.
Saturday night's performance packed a wallop that made all the stock-in-trade clowning come to life. Terence Kern, who conducted the K.H. Stolze/D. Scarlatti score, threw lightning challenges at Anne Marie De Angelo in the title role. She is a prizefighter of a ballerina and as Kate her invincible pointes pummeled the ground, rent the air and inflicted havoc among one and all. If the plot made her succumb to Petruchio, De Angelo triumphed in transforming her own bravura into Kate's belligerence. She had an exhilarating Petruchio in Jerel Hilding, though he tilted to Romantic swagger more than to Elizabethan outrageousness.
The matinee "Shrew" on Saturday was a drab affair. Denise Jackson's Kate was apologetic, with a "this isn't really me" attitude, and Philip Jerry's Petruchio looked neat and careful instead of devil-may-care. At their second performance yesterday afternoon, Jerry and Jackson started to come to terms with their roles of tamer and shrew.
This ballet's most difficult characterization is defined by what it's not. Lucentio is not as funny as the other two suitors for the hand of Kate's sister, Bianca. Michael Bjerknes gave the movement of this quasi-pure lover's role a mellow softness but offered no special insights into the mime. Lauren Rouse danced Bianca clearly and delicately while managing to seem both sweet and smug. In these parts at the De Angelo/Hilding "Shrew" were James Canfield and Pat Miller of Friday's opening night cast. Their rapport has become extraordinary and it is typical of the Joffrey Ballet's courtesy that the season here has featured these Washington-trained dancers together so often.