Journal of the San Juan Islands


Who tames who? Island Stage Left presents 'Shakespeare under the Stars'

Journal of the San Juans Editor
July 10, 2013 · Updated 8:51 AM

The “Taming of the Shrew”, Shakespeare’s classic tale of the battle of wits and battle between the sexes, fits the definition. / Contributed photo

The hallmark of just about any Shakespeare comedy you’ll ever come across would be multiple weddings in the final scene.

In that regard, the “Taming of the Shrew”, Shakespeare’s classic tale of the battle of wits and battle between the sexes, fits the definition.

But a lot goes on between the opening act and the final scene, with a good deal of humor throughout. Still, it’s safe to say that the “taming” of Kate, or Katherine, as she is known in the play, often proves something other than altogether amusing when the transformation of that female lead character, and how it comes about, are gauged through the sensibilities and the lens of a modern audience.

That’s one reason why Island Stage Left’s Helen Machin-Smith resisted performing the play.

Until now.

“It’s not an easy show to do,” Machin-Smith says. “It’s tricky.”

Ahh… but then who better than Stage Left to breathe new life into one of Shakespeare’s more controversial and well-known plays while bringing the latest episode in its continuing summertime series, Shakespeare Under the Stars, to the stage. Tricky or not, expect a feisty, riveting and, ultimately, thought-provoking performance.

The “Taming of the Shrew"” embarks on its six-week San Juan Island run starting Thursday, July 11, at Roche Harbor Resort; performances will then shift to the production company’s Wold Road stage for the final three weeks of the series, beginning Aug. 2.

With first-week performances on Lopez, Shaw, Orcas and Waldron, the curtain first went up off-island a week ago.

Trickiness of Shakespeare’s treatment of gender roles aside, the play features one of his more captivating couples and scintillating love affairs, star-crossed or not. Hollywood made famous that strong-willed, sharp-tongued character of Kate, played by Elizabeth Taylor, and her brash, bold, equally quick-witted suitor Petruchio, played by Richard Burton, in a 1967 full-length feature film. Sparks fly from the very first time the two meet.

Machin-Smith contends that it’s the story about these two social misfits, albeit a whole lot sharper than the rest of the class, and how the chemistry between them evolves that is at the heart of matter. She says the play, with those two characters in mind, is as much about the transformative power of love, or more, than it is about any sweeping, instructive statement about the role that gender should play in society.

“They become two people who love each other and who become lovable themselves,” she says. “They tame each other.”

As is the case with most Shakespearian comedies, Taming of the Shrew is chock-full of self-seeking deceptions, subplots and mistaken identities. Stage Left picks up on Shakespeare’s original setting of the play, in Italy, but pushes the clock ahead to the 1950s, where the dialog’s high-wire repartee plays out against the backdrop of an outdoor plaza and open-air cafe.

Joining a cast of Stage Left regulars, like Alan Geddes, Dorian Oliver and Graham Crawbuck, the production features 23-year-old Kathryn Metgzer in the lead role of Katherine, and David Foubert as Petruchio, an equity actor making his Stage Left debut. And the uniquely gifted Daniel Mayes, cornerstone of any Stage Left production, takes on a trio of roles.

Let the battle begin.

For more information, www.islandstageleft.org.


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