Bard on the Beach opened last week with The Taming of the Shrew, which is probably my least favourite Shakespearean play, considering the misogynistic plot — Petruchio (John Murphy), who wants to marry for money, weds Kate (Lois Anderson), a wealthy and independent-minded “shrew”. After marrying her, Petruchio “tames” her by starving her, sleep depriving her and confusing the heck out of her at any opportunity. By the end, Kate is completely under her husband’s control and kneels to her “master”.
Meg Roe’s adaptation, however, allowed me to see the play in a different light –as just commentary. All the slapstick physical comedy and caricatures (Kayvon Kelly’s Grumio, Duncan Fraser’s Vincentio ) made a lot of the misogyny bearable because it seemed, at times, ironic. Also, Murphy’s performance had a subtle edge of subversion with every gesture and every word, which made his work so engaging and wonderful.
I really enjoyed set designer Kevin McAllister’s green landscape — it reminded me of an Italian vineyard — and it worked exceptionally well as both an exterior and an elegant interior.
I would say that this play is great to see if you find Shakespeare hard to follow or boring. Truth be told, sexist subject matter aside, it’s a fun time. I brought a 14-year-old girl, who recently moved to Canada from China, and she understood and loved every moment of it.
The Taming of the Shrew runs until September 22 at the BMO Mainstage. Opening this week is MacBeth, starring one of my favourite actors in town, Bob Frazer.