Joseph Biagini, a student at Westfield High School, reviews “Taming of the Shrew”, performed by Bishop Ireton High School, as part of The Cappies Critics and Awards Program.

Gun-slinging cowboys and tobacco-spittin’ broads are never expected in your run-of-the-mill Shakespeare play, but Bishop Ireton High School recently defied this seemingly-obvious rule with their Western production of “The Taming of the Shrew.”

Written by the Bard himself, William Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew” is believed to have debuted in the early 1590’s. Bishop Ireton, however, chose to set this version of the comedy in 1877 Texas. The story revolves around two sets of lovers. Bianca (Abby Steinberger), as an attractive young woman, has won herself the admiration of the charming Lucentio (Ben Gerke), the eccentric Hortensio (Joey Ledonio), and the elderly Gremio (Chris Adleson), but her mother Baptista (Sarah Moffit) will not allow her to marry until her unruly elder sister Katherina (Melanie Blower) finds a husband. Petruchio (Bruno del Alamo) is eventually convinced by his friend Hortensio to marry Katherina because of the enormous size of her dowry, allowing Lucentio to win the hand of Bianca.

Generally, the actors at Bishop Ireton were able to produce a version of this classic tale that was entirely understood and, linguistically, impeccably presented. Although there were some moments of inconsistent characterizations and unfocused energy, the cast beautifully compensated through a use of expressive, clear physical comedy. Nearly every member of the cast was able to speak in the traditional south-western accent necessary to fully impart the concept of the production.

Melanie Blower portrayed the titular character, the shrew Katherina, and her tamer, Petruchio was played by Bruno del Alamo. Their tremendous ability to play off of one another in both love and hate propelled them to the top of the production. Their brilliantly-executed fight choreography allowed this romantic tension and pent-up emotion full space to shine. Blower and del Alamo’s incredible performances made this hilarious show all the more enjoyable.

One standout actor was Sarah Moffit in her portrayal of the matriarch of the show, Baptista. Moffit’s clear direction, directed intention, and intended resolve presented her as a cornerstone of the performance.

Bishop Ireton’s technical production was detail-oriented and impressively conceived. The comprehensive set (Mary Bukoski, Will Rodger, and Andy Santalla) featured a large backdrop of a Sheriff’s Office, a Saloon, and a General Store. This was complimented nicely by the period-appropriate costumes (Catherine Burgin, Lily Ramey, Danielle Rowen, and Meg Webster), many of which were handsomely hand-constructed. Hair and Make-Up by Danielle Rowen and Sophia Viggiano created a truly aging feel to some of the actors.

Bishop Ireton High School’s production of “The Taming of the Shrew” was fun, lively, and energetic. Their creative production of this hilarious comedy proves that Shakespeare doesn’t have to be a dry, boring playwright.